Casper Man Sentenced To 7-10-Year Prison Term For Child Abuse
A Casper man will serve a seven- to 10-year prison sentence for the physical abuse of his young daughter a year ago, a judge ruled Friday.
Justin Thomas Ross heard the sentence from Natrona County District Court Judge Catherine Wilking after a two-hour hearing.
During the hearing, Assistant District Attorney Trevor Schenk called Casper Police Detective Tiffany Elhart to testify what happened a year ago when she was called to the Wyoming Medical Center about suspected child abuse.
Elhart said the child's mother told her she gave the 22-month-old girl and her 3-year-old son to her biological father, Ross, for care at his apartment on Grandview Place on Oct. 5, 2016. The mother said the girl was in good health at that time.
On Oct. 11, the mother met Ross to collected the children and she immediately noticed bruising to the girl's face and neck, and asked what happened. Ross told her the girl fell off her toddler bed and on a toy.
That evening, the mother was bathing the girl and saw bruising to the rest of her body. She texted Ross to ask what happened, and he again said she fell from the bed, adding no one else had taken care of the girl during the week.
Elhart said the girl's 3-year-old brother was at Ross' apartment at the same time. The boy, who is not the biological son of Ross, was interviewed at the Children's Advocacy Project, and he said, "'sometimes Justin is mean,'" and that he saw Ross choking the girl.
Schenk then put on the stand Dr. Eugene Duquette, who cared for the girl at the Wyoming Medical Center.
During Duquette's examination of the girl, he found she had multiple bruising on her body. The bruising was in various stages of healing, meaning it occurred over a period of time.
He also found petechia, small reddish spots, in the ears indicating choking, he said.
Hospital staff also performed a CT scan and found she had a skull fracture from the base of the neck extending to the top of the head. The CT scan also revealed two broken ribs, Duquette said.
But the bed is only about a foot-and-a-half high and the plastic toy (a small tricycle) was only a foot high, he said.
Young children have flexible bones, and it is hard for them to break ribs or sustain a skull fracture by falling such a short distance, Duquette said. "It was not accidental trauma."
Ross' attorney Nicholas Carter cross-examined Duquette, who said he could not say for certain when the injuries occurred.
Carter then called family members and friends to testify about Ross' character.
They said Ross was never angry and never exhibited violent tendencies, and was caring for children and baby-sat their children.
Schenk then called the mother of the girl to speak to the court.
Ross, she said, physically and emotionally hurt her daughter and emotionally hurt her son.
Her children are constantly afraid, don't trust people and have nightmares, she said. She also has had to quit jobs to care for them, she said.
In handing down the sentence, Wilking said the original charge of aggravated child abuse was reduced to child abuse during Ross' plea agreement. Ross said at the plea that he over-disciplined the charge and he was sorry for that.
Besides that, Wilking said Ross lacked of criminal history and had no history of drug or alcohol abuse.
However, the impact on the children was significant, and the abuse was not a one-time incident, Wilking said.
Besides the seven- to 10-year prison sentence, the judge ordered Ross to reimburse Medicaid $2,580.29 for the care the child needed.
As Ross was led from the courtroom by sheriff's deputies, members of his family said, "hang tough, Justin" and "love you brother."