Mills Man Gets 18-28 Years in Prison for Child Abuse
A Casper man was handed a lengthy prison sentence for events that left a two-week-old infant with lifelong brain damage.
James Sanders will serve 18 to 28 years in prison for one count of aggravated child abuse and two counts of child abuse.
He was given a six- to eight-year prison sentence on one count, a 12- to 20-year prison sentence on a second count and a two to three-year sentence on a third count.
The second and third convictions will be served concurrently, but consecutive to the first conviction.
Sanders will serve those sentences separately from a 12- to 20-year prison sentence for sexually abusing a child in 2015.
He appeared in Natrona County District Court early Tuesday and at first requested a mental health evaluation following a suicide attempt in the Natrona County Detention Center hours before he was sentenced in the sexual abuse case. District Court Judge Kerri M. Johnson said that having suicidal thoughts does not preclude someone from being mentally competent to stand trial.
District Attorney Dan Itzen said Sanders has shown no signs of impairment to participate in court proceedings.
"Frankly, most people would be depressed when facing these charges," Itzen said.
After Johnson found Sanders fit to proceed, he pleaded guilty to the charges. Family members of two of the three victims gave impact statements.
Last May, Casper police were called to Wyoming Medical Center. When they arrived, they found a girl, born in 2005, suffering from injuries to her face that caused "a horrifying physical deformity."
Testifying Tuesday, the victim's mother described Sanders as someone who was always willing to help watch her daughter.
"I never thought this would have happened," the victim's mother said. "I never thought someone could do this."
Sanders told the victim's mother that she fell down the stairs at an area warehouse where he was working.
But Itzen gave a starker version of events, describing Sanders as having thrown the girl into a room. Her head struck a wall so hard that her hair was embedded in it, the district attorney said.
"The idea that she fell down the steps is nothing more than a lie," Itzen said. "She had bruising from top to bottom — from her head to her toes."
It wasn't enough for Sanders to simply beat the girl, Itzen said. Sanders further "humiliated" the child, making fun of her bruises by writing "poop" on her.
Sanders' attorney, Dylan Rosalez, disputed that claim.
"I'd like to tell the court that those were the worst injuries (Sanders inflicted)," Itzen said. "But that's not true."
In a January 2017 incident, Sanders shook a two-week-old infant to the point that he suffered severe brain damage, including suffering from blindness and chronic seizures. Today, the 2-year-old requires a feeding tube and will need therapy for the rest of his life. The child has the brain function of a six-month-old, Itzen said.
"It is astonishing the damage (Sanders) can inflict on people," Itzen said. "(Sanders) said he can't be left alone with kids — no kidding.
"He altered a person's life at the age of two weeks."
In the third incident, which took place in April or May of 2016, Sanders beat a child to the point that he had bruising on his backside for several days after the incident occurred.
The child continues to suffer nightmares and sees a therapist twice weekly.
Before asking for a sentence of 18-20 years on one of the charges, Itzen said the case exemplifies why he pursued a career in law — a desire to help people.
"There are cases that bring you back to that," Itzen said.
It's a principle of wanting to protect the most vulnerable in society, and that includes children, Itzen said.