A Ferndale man who critically injured his infant son when he slammed him in a bouncy seat will spend less than a decade in prison.
Evaristo Mendez, 26, was found guilty by a jury March 22 in Whatcom County Superior Court of first-degree assault of a child. He was sentenced Friday to eight years in prison, with three years of probation. A no-contact order was put in place for a decade for the victim.
In mid-January 2017, a social worker from Seattle Children’s Hospital called Ferndale police to report suspected child abuse. The social worker said a then five-month old boy had been hospitalized for several days and had several serious medical conditions, including a collection of blood outside his brain and bleeding in both eyes, according to court records.
The boy underwent surgery to release fluid on his brain, records state.
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The doctor told police all underlying medical conditions were ruled out and the incident was deemed a non-accidental trauma.
When police spoke with the boy’s mother, she said she and her husband, later identified as Mendez, were the only caregivers for their two children. She told police she was at work in December 2016 on a night Mendez would have watched the children.
During an interview with police in late January 2017, Mendez admitted that he pushed the boy “harder than he meant to,” records state. Mendez said the boy was in a Rock N Play, a brand name for a bouncy seat for small children, and was not properly buckled in.
Mendez said he pushed the device harder than normal and the boy hit his head on the plastic sides several times. Mendez then pushed the device harder and the child flew two feet out of the seat, hit his head on the floor and landed on his back or side, records state.
Mendez told police there was a delay in the boy’s crying and “he realized he had done something,” according to court records.
Mendez went to bed 30 minutes later, after the boy’s mother came home. The woman told police she was up all night with the boy because he was projectile vomiting. Mendez did not say anything about the incident, records show.
When the boy was taken to the hospital, charging documents say Mendez let the boy’s mother answer all the questions from hospital staff.
When questioned later time by detectives, Mendez said the pushing and side-to-side movements of the boy’s head were more violent than he originally admitted, records state.
Mendez was arrested Jan. 22, 2017.
During trial, Mendez said he was frustrated and upset at the time of the incident and wasn’t using the swing as intended. He stated the shaking was “more aggressive than I would ever be,” and that “based on his actions, he feared people would think he was a bad father,” records state.
At least 15 family members, friends and coworkers wrote to the sentencing judge on behalf of Mendez and his character.
Prior to sentencing, Mendez’s attorney also filed motions to dismiss the charges and for him to receive an exceptional sentence below the standard range of time, court records show.
Superior Court Judge Charles Snyder denied both motions and sentenced Mendez within the standard range.