That is a dramatic reenactment of my actual reaction to receiving the information I’m about to impart on you. There was definitely more profanity involved, but we can consider the above the Lifetime interpretation.
Before I get into why I sat bolt upright in bed at 1:00 AM to screech that reaction aloud at my phone screen, let’s first revisit the story of six-month-old Adrien Decker of Newark, Ohio. On March 9, Adrien was brought to Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, suffering from life-threatening injuries that included bilateral retinal hemorrhaging, spinal damage in his neck, brain swelling, and fractured ribs. On March 10, while the baby clung to life in the hospital, police responded to a report from hospital staff.
The baby’s mother, 18-year-old Madison Harvey, told investigators that she saw Adrien’s father, 18-year-old Michael Decker, get up with the baby early Monday morning, yell at him, and “roughly put the infant into a bouncing seat to the point that the baby hit its head.” She said Adrien stopped crying immediately (as brain damaged infants are wont to do), and they all went back to sleep until about 9:30, when they arose to find the baby unresponsive.
Michael told investigators that he did not harm his son intentionally, although he did admit he was rough with the baby.
Yeah. Rough is one way to put it. On March 12, the family was forced to make the decision to remove their precious baby boy, who had no brain function, from life support. Adrien died a hero, and on March 14, his mom, grandma, and other family members somberly followed his gurney toward the operating room. There, his organs were harvested to allow other children the opportunity to live, including a little girl his age who had needed a liver transplant since birth.
Michael was initially charged with one count of endangering children, a second degree felony. Last week, a Licking County grand jury convened for only the second time since being put on hold in April due to the current pandemic. The grand jury handed down an indictment for Michael Decker on two second-degree felony counts of endangering children, one third-degree felony count of endangering children, and a single first-degree felony count of involuntary manslaughter.
This mouth-breather allegedly admitted to slamming his own baby so hard into a bouncy seat that the kid died, and the best the grand jury could do is involuntary manslaughter.
Ohio code § 2903.04. Involuntary manslaughter, reads: “(A) No person shall cause the death of another… as a proximate result of the offender’s committing or attempting to commit a felony… (C) Whoever violates this section is guilty of involuntary manslaughter. Violation of division (A) of this section is a felony of the first degree.”
To earn a charge of voluntary manslaughter (§ 2903.03), the offender would have to be provoked by the victim: “(A) No person, while under the influence of sudden passion or in a sudden fit of rage, either of which is brought on by serious provocation occasioned by the victim that is reasonably sufficient to incite the person into using deadly force, shall knowingly cause the death of another… (C) Whoever violates this section is guilty of voluntary manslaughter, a felony of the first degree.”
Obviously, it can’t be argued that a six-month-old baby could have “provoked” his own death, so voluntary manslaughter goes out the window. What I find fucked up is that for either voluntary or involuntary manslaughter, the punishment is the same: three to ten years in prison with a maximum fine of $20,000.
While examining Ohio penal codes, I noticed that a murder charge doesn’t seem to have been an impossibility in this case. Under § 2903.02(B). Murder, it reads, “No person shall cause the death of another as a proximate result of the offender’s committing or attempting to commit an offense of violence that is a felony of the first or second degree and that is not a violation of section 2903.03 or 2903.04 of the Revised Code.” A murder conviction could incur a prison sentence of fifteen years to life.
I’m not a lawyer, though, and a conviction on all four charges against Michael Decker is the best we can hope for at this point. The very tip-top maximum sentence Michael could received if convicted of all four is, according to Assistant Licking County Prosecutor Jenny Gonzalez-Wells, 11 years for the involuntary manslaughter charge, eight years for each second-degree felony child endangerment charge, and three years for the third-degree felony child endangerment charge.
For those not keeping score, that would be 30 paltry years behind bars for causing the death of his own infant son, and that’s if his sentences were to run consecutively instead of concurrently. Does that seem like a harsh enough punishment to you for ending a promising young life?
A GoFundMe campaign set up in March to help pay for Adrien’s funeral is still collecting donations in hopes of honoring the beloved little guy with a headstone.
I really feel for Adrien’s family. Madison, who also has a three-year-old son, is currently about three months pregnant with her third child and is reportedly struggling with her grief, although she does seem to be surrounded by a loving, supportive family. I can’t imagine how jarring it was to lose both her child and the man who she considered the love of her life in one fell swoop. My sincere hope is that Madison and everyone else who loves Adrien can find peace with whatever justice is served in his case.
Click here for my ongoing coverage of Adrien’s story.
Sources: Newark Advocate, Ohio Revised Code, Facebook, GoFundMe