A convicted child abuser said he tried telling his wife he could not care for a 2-month-old, but she wouldn’t listen.
Zak L. Wilding admitted that when he was left alone with his stepson one night in November 2015, he caused injuries to the baby that included bleeding on the brain, broken ribs and bruising in and around the mouth.
“I apologize for what happened that night. I’m not responsible for any of the injuries that happened prior to that night,” Wilding said. “I wasn’t able to take care of him on my own at that point in time, and I told Kelcee (Taggart) but she wouldn’t listen.”
“I know what I did was wrong,” he added.
Wilding, 21, recently pleaded guilty July 5 in Benton County Superior Court to second-degree assault of a child with domestic violence. He was ordered to serve three years and five months in prison.
That was at the top of the standard range, with defense attorney Sam Swanberg asking for a three-year sentence in the middle of the range.
“The injuries here almost defied comprehension for a child of that age,” said Judge Alex Ekstrom. “Those of us outside of the system who don’t see this sort of injury often, I doubt they would believe it if they saw it.”
The judge said he’s hopeful that Wilding will get the treatment he needs while locked up.
“It’s a tough sentence, but I think it’s fair looking at these injuries,” Ekstrom said.
Deputy Prosecutor Andrew Howell said what’s most concerning to the state is that while Wilding admitted causing the fresh injuries, the baby also had previously broken bones that were in the process of healing.
“What happened here is completely unacceptable,” Howell said.
Taggart went to work one afternoon and left the baby and his 1-year-old brother in the care of another person for five hours, according to court documents. She told Kennewick police the baby did not have any marks or bruising and was not crying when she dropped him off.
The babysitter then gave the baby to Wilding that evening. When Taggart came home after 11 p.m., Wilding reportedly got up off the couch and handed the baby to his wife, then went to bed.
Wilding told her the boy “has been crying for three (expletive) hours,” documents said.
Taggart noted that her younger son was crying, was bleeding from the mouth and had a cut and bruise on the top of his head, court documents said. A friend told her to take the baby to the emergency room, but Taggart decided to wait and see how he did overnight.
She took the baby to Kadlec Regional Medical Center in Richland to next day because of his incessant crying. A registered nurse called police.
The baby had to be flown to Sacred Heart Medical Center in Spokane.
Wilding had found out the week before that the baby was not his biological son, documents said.
He initially denied knowing how the infant was hurt, then said he didn’t mean to hurt his stepson and had become overwhelmed while watching the baby. He said he grabbed the boy “under the armpits and applied pressure with his palms,” and admitted knowing he wasn’t supposed to hold a baby that way.
Wilding also told investigators he screamed at the boy and held him tightly against his chest, and claimed he accidentally smacked the baby’s head on the air conditioner while getting up from the couch, documents said.
Prosecutors did not charge Wilding until this past January because it took some time for investigators to receive and review medical reports on the boy. Wilding at the time was living in the Tumwater area.
The baby’s grandmother, Gina Taggart, told the court at sentencing that it’s a bittersweet day because though she was getting justice for her grandson, she also had learned to love Wilding as her son.
“I just wish that you would apologize for what you did to (the boy),” Taggart told Wilding.
She said her grandson is now walking and is a happy, little boy.
“There’s nothing going to stop him from moving forward,” she said. “He’s fully recovered.”
Wilding has been ordered to have no contact with the boy for up to 10 years.