Sentence of five and a half years for death of 18-month-old

A Red Deer man has been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison for killing 18-month-old Garth Leippi in 2008.

A Red Deer man has been sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison for killing 18-month-old Garth Leippi in 2008.

Evan Caswell Gilmer, 33, was found guilty of manslaughter at a Red Deer Queen’s Bench jury trial in October and was sentenced on Wednesday. His sentence is be reduced by 119 days for time served.

The toddler died in a Calgary hospital when he was removed from life support after suffering a severe brain injury in the early morning of Oct. 12, 2008.

He was injured at a Red Deer apartment where he lived with his mother, Jennifer Gladue, and her boyfriend then, Gilmer.

Evidence indicated that Garth suffered blunt force trauma to the back of his head. He had a fractured skull and jaw.

Leippi was initially rushed to Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre about 6:30 a.m. that morning, unconscious and not breathing.

The jury found Gilmer not guilty of second-degree murder but guilty of manslaughter.

During the trial, Gilmer testified he tried to pick up the child but fell on him, putting his full body weight on his outstretched hand, which pushed into the child’s forehead while he lay on the floor. The defence also argued the boy suffered a skull fracture about two weeks or a month prior.

The Crown contended that Gilmer, who had little or no experience in child rearing, was frustrated over the loss of his own sleep and attempted to quiet the crying child.

Justice Monica Bast said several aggravating factors led to her sentencing decision — the extent of Garth’s injury; the delay between the trauma and Gilmer getting help; Gilmer’s position of trust in caring for Garth; and the fact that Gilmer did not accept responsibility for his actions.

Crown prosecutor Jason Snider recommended a six-to-eight-year prison sentence.

Defence lawyer Lorne Goddard recommended a four-to-six-year sentence, saying there was no prior abuse.

Questions linger for the child’s family.

Garth’s grandmother, Debi-Lyn Leippi, who spoke on behalf of the family in her victim impact statement, said their lives have been shattered with “unspeakable, unimaginable despair.”

“Our little man is gone,” Leippi said. “He was full of life. It shouldn’t be ending.”

She faced Gilmer as she read her statement aloud in court while family members hugged and tried to hold back their tears.

“What did he do to have his life taken away from him?” said Leippi. Her son Bryon is Garth Leippi’s father.

“You were Bryon’s best buddy. You were the best man at his wedding. What happened? Will we ever have peace for Garth.”

When Bast asked Gilmer if he wanted to make a statement to the court, he declined.

In a victim impact statement read by Crown prosecutor Jason Snider, Jennifer Gladue, the mother of Garth Leippi, said her life is not the same without her son.

“Every morning, I wake up hoping this was all a bad dream.”

Outside court after sentencing, Gladue collapsed in tears.

“I know the family is relieved to see the process finally concluded,” Snider said outside the courthouse.