Sara Ann Concannon "only did one thing wrong," said Anne Arundel County prosecutor Pamela K. Alban.
But punishment for the 18-month-old for taking bread from a drawer in her family's Pasadena kitchen and making a mess with it ended in her being shaken to death.
Yesterday, David Arthur Malloy, 21, of Pasadena - who while baby-sitting Sara shook her so violently that he broke her skull and sent blood into her spinal cord - was sentenced to 20 years in prison.
"It's still never going to be enough," Christal Hayden, Sara's mother, said after the tense and emotional session in Anne Arundel County Circuit Court. "Twenty years is not enough for taking a life."
Hayden said that she believes in an eye for a eye and that "as mean as it sounds, I hope that is what happens to him in prison."
In court, Hayden said she is haunted by images of her hospitalized daughter, tubes coming out of her tiny body, her head swathed in gauze, "feeling her life leave her body" when life-support machines were turned off.
"Parents expect to spend $6,000 on tuition, not on a fancy wooden box and a hole in the ground, and a marker," Hayden said.
What she likes to think of, she said, is the baby who went to her first rock concert when she was 2 weeks old and grew to love music, an active toddler with reddish hair, huge blue eyes and a charming grin.
In hindsight, Hayden said, she blames herself for letting Malloy - who had lived with her family until her parents ordered him out a week before the incident - return to baby-sit. Her daughter seemed apprehensive around him, Hayden said, but she figured it was a stage the toddler was going through, given her attachment to Christal's mother.
Malloy, who was convicted of child abuse resulting in death, apologized in court during a hearing punctuated by Hayden's sobs. A friend and relatives described him as a nice person, good with other youngsters and with his own child who was a few months older than Sara. His lawyer, Don F. Lindner, said Malloy meant to shake Sara but not kill her.
"I never wanted to do anything to hurt her," Malloy said. "I have no idea what happened that day."
Alban, an assistant state's attorney, said that on Feb. 18 last year, Malloy forcefully shook the toddler, made eight telephone calls in nine minutes - but none seeking medical help - and then lied when paramedics, who were contacted minutes later when the baby's father, Sean T. Concannon, arrived to find Sara unresponsive, asked what had happened.
Sara died three days later at Johns Hopkins Hospital, with severe injuries from shaken-baby syndrome, her brain torn and swollen, and blood vessels in her eyes and head ruptured.
Malloy gave police several accounts of what happened before confessing. He pleaded guilty to child abuse in January.
Judge Pamela L. North sentenced him to 25 years in prison with five years suspended, plus five years of probation.
North said she exceeded the state guideline of 12 to 20 years because of the severity of the crime and the vulnerability of the victim. The maximum sentence is 30 years.
Sara had made headlines a year earlier when a cigarette set her mother's duplex ablaze.
Three construction workers saw smoke and rushed to the home. Hayden dropped the 6-month-old from a second-floor window into their arms, then escaped seconds later, just as the floor exploded into flames. From then on, she called Sara "Angel Baby."