Junction man gets 8 years for scalding hand of child
A Grand Junction man convicted of giving a 3-year-old second-degree burns by holding her hand under scalding water in early 2016 was sentenced to eight years in prison Wednesday by a Mesa County district judge.
Roy Lee Van Baker, 25, told Judge Gretchen Larson on Wednesday that he had pleaded guilty to a felony count of child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury because it was the “best they could give me,” and not because he had held his girlfriend’s daughter’s hand in hot water running from a bathtub in February 2016.
Baker was arrested after the child’s mother told Mesa County sheriff’s deputies that Baker watched her daughter and 1-year-old son at Baker’s mother’s house in the 2800 block of North Niagara Circle while she went to an appointment, earlier reports said. When she came home, she said Baker told her that her daughter had “got into something” and burned her hand.
Baker admitted to deputies that he was frustrated with the child because she was antagonizing her younger brother and throwing his bottle across the room, prosecutor Mark Hand said Wednesday. Baker admitted he held the child’s hand in the scalding water for 10 to 20 seconds.
Deputies tested the temperature of the bathtub hot water faucet and found the water increased from an initial temperature of 76 degrees to nearly 142 degrees after 90 seconds, earlier reports said.
On Wednesday, however, Baker recanted his earlier confession. Instead, he told Larson that the real attacker had coerced him to plead guilty to the crime while threatening to kill Baker’s family.
“He’s already tried to (kill them) three different times,” Baker said while crying during his sentencing hearing.
Baker asked Larson to give him the minimum sentence allowed by his plea deal, six years in prison.
“Honestly I don’t think I should be sitting here right now,” he said. “I’m sorry for what happened even though it wasn’t me who did it.”
As Hand read through a summary of law enforcement’s investigation Wednesday, including Baker’s earlier confession, one of several people seated behind Baker whispered “liar.”
Hand asked Larson to impose the maximum sentence of eight years in prison and said Baker has shown “very little empathy for the victim.”
Larson told Baker his bizarre story of the real attacker forcing him to confess “just doesn’t make sense.” She said evidence lines up with Baker’s original statement: that he was frustrated with the child.
“You responded with anger and you responded to punish her and you held her hand in scalding water,” Larson told Baker. “I have no reason to believe that she wouldn’t have been screaming or fighting to get away. … You continued to hold her hand under scalding water to punish her for throwing a bottle and acting like a 3-year-old.”
Larson said Baker’s own difficult upbringing didn’t excuse his behavior.