A father who beat his baby boy so badly that the child was left blind and severely brain-damaged received a 30-year prison term yesterday from a Baltimore County judge who called the beating "despicable."
Manual J. Santos, 27, formerly of the 1600 block of Bluffdale Road, near Woodlawn, pleaded guilty in July to child abuse and battery in the near-fatal beating last Dec. 21 of his son, Zachary Santos, then 4 months old.
Assistant State's Attorney Susan H. Hazlett said the child was beaten at least three different times, causing two brain injuries, detached retinas in both eyes, numerous broken ribs and fluid in the liver.
"That he did not die is a a miracle," she told Circuit Judge Robert E. Cadigan. Despite seven operations, she said, Zachary is so badly brain-damaged that he will never be able to feed himself and will not regain the ability to distinguish even shadows.
"This man should serve 35 years for what his did to his son," she said. "Imagine what it was like for that child to try to eat, to try to cry, with broken ribs. He'll never see his mother's face."
The child now is in foster care, the prosecutor said, although the 19-year-old mother was not charged.
Assistant Public Defender Sally C. Chester told the judge that Santos didn't have drug, alcohol or psychological problems. "He just lost it," she said, then compounded the boy's injuries by trying to shake him back to consciousness.
"He is not a monster; he did a monstrous thing," Ms. Chester said in asking for a 15-year term.
Santos told the judge in a shaking voice, "I have no excuse for my actions," but he asked for mercy and "an opportunity to receive help."
Judge Cadigan agreed to recommend that Santos be placed at Patuxent Institution "to receive some treatment for his rage."
In reviewing the case, the judge said Santos began slapping his son to quiet the baby's chronic crying. He said Santos told authorities that Zachary rolled off the bed and was seriously injured when he accidentally fell on the child.
Doctors at Johns Hopkins Hospital said the injuries were more consistent with someone swinging the child into a wall.
"Mr. Santos, what you did to that defenseless 4-month-old child is despicable," Judge Cadigan said. "You don't deserve to be a parent."