Utah man Elijah Jodejuan has been sentenced to 365 days behind bars for physically abusing his 4-month-old daughter, the Salt Lake Tribune is reporting. The 25-year-old was indicted on two counts of second-degree felony child abuse. Jodejuan pleaded guilty to one lesser count of third-degree child abuse, which would have attracted a five-year sentence.
Elijah Jodejuan had already spent four months behind bars over the abuse, which took place in December of last year. However, Judge Richard McKelvie declined to knock the time already spent at the Salt Lake County jail off his one-year sentence. Judge McKelvie said that during his 12-month jail sentence, Jodejuan was not entitled to labor detail, an option for early release, and would have his ankle monitor on at all times.
According to court documents, the baby had been left in Elijah Jodejuan’s care while the mother went to work. The mother said later in the day she started getting strange text messages from Elijah, telling her “everything would turn out right with the baby.”
The frantic mother had rushed home and found Elijah locked up inside a bedroom with the infant. The 25-year-old man refused to open the door and rejected any questions that the mother had about the baby’s welfare. The mother later told detectives she heard her child screaming behind the closed door.
The mother eventually got inside the bedroom and found the baby in a closet, covered with burns and other injuries. She rushed the infant to the hospital and reported the matter to the police.
When detectives queried the unemployed man, he claimed that he was in the shower and had left the baby alone. He said it was during that time that the child accidentally pulled a space heater set at 85 degrees on herself. Elijah said when he rushed to her aid, the heater was stuck to her skin, and when he tried to get it off her, she was “screaming like bloody murder.”
Elijah Jodejuan told police that sometimes he could get emotionally detached and not respond quickly to the child when she started crying. He said during those times, the baby could get hurt herself and make him “feel like a complete idiot” for allowing it happen.
Elijah Jodejuan said he got the heater off, but he got irritated because the baby would not stop crying and admitted to “taking it out on her.” He said he grasped her “hard on her waist” and rammed a feeding bottle into the girl’s mouth and “held it pretty hard while she was crying.”
However, doctors who examined the child disputed the story given by Elijah, saying besides the burns, the girl had visible signs of non-accidental trauma, including bruises and grazes on her arms, legs, abdomen, and face. A doctor said the young girl had a “patterned grid burn mark on her forehead” in addition to other injuries.
Jodejuan had pleaded guilty in May for a lesser charge and was due to be sentenced on July 18, but he fled. He was captured August 3 after a tip-off led police to a home, where he was found hiding in the closet. He had been at the Salt Lake County jail for four months from November until March, at which time he was released to the Pretrial Services for supervision.
Jodejuan has pleaded to previous charges of possession of drug paraphernalia and driving under the influence. He had had been charged in two other drug possession cases. The 25-year-old man had also pleaded guilty in domestic violence-related assaults in 2013 and 2014.
Statistics show that Utah is the eighth ranking state when it comes to the abuse of children. There were 6,900 cases in 2014, and 27 percent of those cases were sex abuse cases — the highest rate in America. Carrie Jensen of Prevent Child Abuse said it was crucial that Utah adopt tougher laws than other states and mete out more severe punishment to offenders.
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