ELKTON — A man who punched his 3-year-old son several times in the face and body inside their Elkton home during a protracted attack — one in which the defendant also smothered and profanely taunted the boy – received an 18-month jail term on Wednesday.
Cecil County Circuit Court Judge Brenda A. Sexton imposed a 10-year sentence on the defendant, Brandon Todd Shepard, 30, for second-degree custodial child abuse and then suspended all but 18 months of it.
The judge gave Shepard credit for the time that he already had served in the Cecil County Detention Center without bond – a day shy of one year — after his arrest on July 30, 2019, the day of the incident.
In January, as part of a plea deal, Shepard pleaded guilty to that second-degree child abuse charge and Sexton, in turn, found him guilty of that offense after hearing the state’s statement of fact. Bowen dismissed related charges, including second-degree assault, false imprisonment and reckless endangerment, on Wednesday in accordance with that plea agreement.
Sexton ordered Shepard to serve three years of supervised probation after completing his 18-month jail term.
As special conditions of his probation, Shepard must receive a mental health evaluation and complete any recommended counseling and treatment; undergo a drug and alcohol evaluation and submit to any recommended treatment and counseling; successfully complete an anger management course and successfully complete a parenting class. He also must submit to random drug tests.
“There is no excuse for my action. I except full responsibility. I just want to get the help I need and be a better person. I am willing to do anything set forth,” said Shepard who, shackled and clad in an inmate uniform, stood at the defense table beside his Assistant Public Defender Edwin B. Fockler IV while addressing the judge moments before sentencing.
Assistant State’s Attorney Nathaniel Bowen had sought three years of active prison incarceration for Shepard, specifically recommending a 15-year sentence with 12 years of it suspended.
State sentencing guidelines, which are based on a defendant’s criminal record and other factors, set a penalty range of six months to five years of active incarceration for Shepard – who has an otherwise clean criminal record, Bowen and Fockler reported.
Fockler had requested a 10-year sentence with all suspended but the time that Shepard already had served. Short of that, Fockler asked that the judge give Shepard no more than 18 months of active incarceration.
“He has issues. He is aware of his issues. And he is working on his issues,” Fockler told the judge, before reporting that Shepard had a difficult upbringing.
Fockler also told Sexton that Shepard “has had plenty of time to reflect” on the incident while jailed as a pre-trial inmate for the past year. In addition, Fockler reported that Shepard is remorseful and that, during their attorney-client meetings, Shepard “gets emotional talking about it.”
Alluding to Shepard’s opportunity to receive various treatment, counseling, betterment courses and monitoring through probation, Fockler commented to the judge, “He is in the best possible position to make things right, as right as they can be.”
Shortly after the July 30, 2019 incident, Shepard told Elkton Police Department detectives that he “snapped” while disciplining his son for crying at bedtime and that he “felt bad for how he handled the situation,” according to court records.
During the defendant’s plea hearing on Jan. 15, then-Assistant State’s Attorney Shauna Lee reported that a camera videotaped the incident. That camera had been set up inside the boy’s bedroom by the boy’s mother, who was Shepard’s girlfriend, Lee noted.
Court records identify Carrie Evans as the boy’s mother and indicate that she provided EPD investigators with a video of the attack, after reporting the incident to them.
Before reading aloud the statement of fact — most of which referred to the sounds and action captured by the videocamera — Lee told the judge that she would “edit the vulgarity” during that hearing some six months ago.
The video shows the boy crying and then Shepard jumping on the bed in what investigators described as a “rage,” before striking the youngster once with an open left hand, hitting him four times with a right fist and then punching him three more times with a left fist, according to court records. Those blows landed on the boy’s face and chest, court records show.
It also shows Shepard on top of the boy, covering the youngster’s mouth with his left hand, according to court records, which indicate that Shepard is 6’4” and weighed 205 pounds at the time of the incident.
The boy’s “muffled cries” can be heard on the video, which, at that same time, shows the youngster’s “kicking legs in a panicked state,” according to court records. The video also shows that, when Shepard removes his hands from his son’s mouth, the boy gasps for air.
Shepard then can be seen punching the boy several more times, prosecutors reported. The numerous blows thrown by Shepard struck the boy on several parts of his body, including his face, chest and abdomen, prosecutors said. Investigators had reported that Shepard backhanded the boy in the face at least once during the incident, prosecutors added.
Doctors at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Del. examined the boy, who had suffered significant bruising, redness and abrasions to his back, legs, face, neck and chest, according to court records, which indicate that investigators photographed the marks on the youngster. Doctors reported that the boy’s injuries were indicative of physical child abuse, court records show.
Shepard aggressively taunted the boy throughout the incident, according to court records, which show that Shepard told the youngster at one point, “I hope it (expletive) hurts you little (expletive).”
After punching his son in the body, Shepard grabbed the boy’s head and manipulated it to the point that he and the child were face to face and then Shepard said, “Do I make myself clear?” court records show.
The list of comments that Shepard made to the boy during the attack, according to court records, includes, “You did it to yourself. Stop being a little (expletive) and this will stop,” and “This attitude that you’re pulling, I am done with it, understand? If this does not (expletive) change, you’re going to be hurting a whole hell of a lot boy.”
Comments from Shepard’s mother
Bowen did not call any state witnesses to give victim-impact statements during Wednesday’s sentencing, nor did Fockler call any character witnesses on behalf of Shepard.
During the Jan. 15 plea hearing, however, the judge allowed Shepard’s mother to speak on her son’s behalf — in case she would be unable to attend his sentencing due to a scheduling conflict with her job.
The woman told the judge that the boy “says he misses his Daddy” and that the youngster “doesn’t show any sign of remembering that day.”
She opined that the “angle of the video camera” made Shepard’s attack on his son look worse that what it really was.
His mother, however, acknowledged, “I know it was wrong . . . I know he needs to do time, needs punishment.”
After Sexton asked, “Anything else you’d like to say?” during that hearing, Shepard’s mother looked over at her son, seated a few feet away at the defense table, and said, “I love you, Brandon.”