Matthew Wickens, 24, admitted to a judge that he lost his temper and killed his five-week-old son.
His confession came after lying about the murder repeatedly. Newborn Riley Gardener died in 2012 of injuries sustained by his father. Wickens became angry with the newborn child when, according to the Herald Express, the baby wouldn’t stop crying. Wickens shook his newborn, slammed his face into a crib, banged his head against the metal arm of a baby swing, dropped him on the floor and then left him to die in his bed.
Not only did Wickens not seek medical attention once he realized how badly his baby was injured, but he attempted to cover up the injuries by putting a hat on the baby’s head.
The day of the murder, Wickens, then 22, had agreed to watch his son while Gemma Gardener, the baby’s mother, and her older son went shopping. Riley and his father were left alone in the family’s home in Paignton, Devon on November 25, 2012. Wickens claims he bottle-fed and changed Riley’s clothes before becoming angry and attacking his son. Matthew Wickens left the baby for Gemma to discover in his bed.
Wickens’ lies made Gemma Gardener the prime suspect. Gemma not only had grief the loss of her baby, she also ended up losing custody of her older child for over a year during the investigation into baby Riley’s murder. Gemma was only gone for a little over two and a half hours. The baby’s mother said that when she returned home, Wickens appeared calm and told her their baby was sleeping. Once she realized the baby was not breathing, she frantically ran to get her father who was across the street. The baby’s grandfather performed CPR. The baby was rushed to the hospital, where consultants say the baby was likely dead on arrival.
Wickens ended up telling police, according to the Herald Express report, “The thing with me is that I don’t like being told I’ve got to do this or I’ve got to do that.”
Shortly before the trial this April, Wickens finally told the authorities the extent of the attack he committed against his child. Wickens said he simply lost control and after seeing his injured child, he panicked and attempted to cover up his crime.
According to a Daily Mail report, the prosecuting attorney said that Matthew Wickens and Gemma Gardener had an “on-off” relationship during Gemma’s pregnancy with Riley; Wickens had a relationship with another woman and developed cold feet towards the idea of fatherhood. According to the prosecutor, Wickens saw fatherhood as too restrictive of his freedom. He said that when Riley was born he felt as though his life was over and that he would never get to hang out with his friends, concerned that he would “just be a father all the time.”
Matthew Wickens was sentenced to six years and five months in jail for killing his own son. The crime was deemed manslaughter, rather than murder, because it was believed to be unintentional. Wicken’s lawyer told the court “He wishes to express his deep regret and remorse. He lost his temper and shook Riley and slammed his face down on to his cot.”
The lawyer added that Wickens may have been tired after getting up during the night to check on the baby and working long hours.
Do you think six years and five months in jail is a suitable punishment for the crime Matthew Wickens committed?
[Photo of Riley via Facebook – Photo of Wickens via public records]