CALDWELL, Idaho -- By the time Sylys Hernandez died, just days short of three months old, he had endured more hunger and violence than most adults do in their lifetime.
The infant's father, 26-year-old Isaac Hernandez of Nampa, Idaho, was sentenced to 27 years in prison Wednesday, capping a case the judge called among "the saddest and worst" instances of child abuse he had dealt with in his more than 30 years practicing law.
In court, Prosecutor Erica Kallin detailed the injuries Hernandez inflicted on his infant son.
Twenty-six fractures to his ribs. Both legs broken. A torn frenulum in his mouth - likely from being punched in the face, according to the prosecution. The baby was underfed, dehydrated and had bruises on his face, wrists, hands and penis.
An autopsy revealed the wounds were in various stages of healing, meaning they were inflicted over a period of time, rather than all at once in a single fit of frustration, Kallin said.
Sylys' life had been so punctuated with brutality, Kallin said she struggled to find a photo - any photo - in which the baby does not have a visible injury.
"In those three short months, we're talking about a child who knew nothing but pain, suffering and hunger," Kallin said.
Sylys' mother was in prison serving time on a methamphetamine conviction when he was born, so the infant was handed over to his father. Kallin said Hernandez received offers from friends and family to help with the infant, babysit or buy food or clothing, but he rejected them.
Several people told investigators after the baby's death that Hernandez' interactions with his son were troubling. The witnesses said the boy never smiled or laughed, and spent most of his day strapped into his carseat. The child always seemed to have a bruise or injury, which his father explained away.
One friend said he saw Hernandez throw jabs at the baby's stomach and push his face into a blanket to muffle his crying. Another said the child screamed when she lifted up his legs to change his diaper, which didn't make sense until she learned after the child's death that his legs were broken, Kallin said. A relative found a hand-sized pool of blood in the baby's crib.
An anonymous caller reported suspicions that Sylys had been abused in November 2014. But Kallin said caseworkers ruled the report unfounded and closed the case without ever seeing the baby.
The next month, he was dead.
"Society demands justice in this case," Kallin said. "We have a child who, because he's passed, cannot be protected in the future. But he is somebody who can have justice, and his death isn't meaningless."
Hernandez was not charged with murder in the case because despite his numerous injuries, the coroner's office could not determine whether the baby died from manual suffocation, or SIDS, according to prosecutors. His cause and manner of death remain listed as "undetermined."
The defendant was arrested eight months after his son's death. He pleaded guilty in June to three counts of felony injury to a child, which caries a maximum sentence of ten years per charge.
Defense attorney Robert Tilley asked the judge to place Hernandez on retained jurisdiction, outlining his client's difficult upbringing and describing the pressure of juggling felony probation with single fatherhood.Tilley also pointed to other cases in which defendants charged with felony injury to a child received probation or a rider.
Hernandez declined to make a statement, instead giving a letter to the judge in which he blames Sylys' injuries on other people.
But Judge George Southworth wasn't swayed.
"It does not appear that that child had even a day of joy in his life," he told Hernandez.
The judge rejected the assertion that Hernandez was uninvolved in his baby's repeated, severe injuries. Southworth ultimately handed down the sentence the prosecutor requested: a 27 year sentence, with at least seven years before Hernandez will be eligible for parole.
"I can conclude that this defendant was responsible for nearly three months of misery in this infant child's life, misery and pain," he said.
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