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Man gets 30 years for shaken baby death

A Franklin man pled guilty Thursday to causing the death of a five-month-old baby whom he was babysitting at a home in north Fayette County in February 2011.

Steven Anthony Haire, 24, was sentenced to 30 years in prison by Fayette County Superior Court Judge Tommy Hankinson. The negotiated plea allowed for the infant’s parents to be spared having to relive the child’s death at trial, according to Fayette County Assistant District Attorney Warren Sellers.

The medical examiner assigned to the case along with a medical doctor from Children's Healthcare in Atlanta were prepared to testify that the infant boy died of injuries received when he was shaken violently, Sellers said. The injuries included a subdural hematoma and retinal hemorrhaging, the prosecutor noted.

The incident occurred Feb. 21, 2011 at a home on West Lane just off Milam Road in north Fayette County. The child died from those injuries four days later, Sellers said.

Paramedics were originally summoned to the scene because the child was not breathing, officials said. Emergency crews who responded performed CPR on the infant, who was first transported to Piedmont Fayette Hospital and later flown to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta pediatric hospital, where he was placed on life support and remained in a coma until his death, officials have said previously.

Haire at the time of the incident was taking care of the child while the parents were away from the home. Haire and his girlfriend, who is a cousin of one of the parents, were both living at the residence when the incident occurred, Sellers said.

In an interview with a Fayette County sheriff’s detective after his arrest, Haire admitted to shaking the child, Sellers said. Haire said he was upset with the child because the infant kept crying while he was trying to take a nap, Sellers said.

In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors reduced the murder charge to a voluntary manslaughter charge, though he received a 20-year sentence on that offense, Sellers said. The second charge Haire pled to was cruelty to children in the first degree and that resulted in an additional 10 years being added to Haire’s sentence, Sellers added.

There was no indication that drugs were involved in the incident, Sellers said. A mental evaluation of Haire was conducted and determined that he was not insane when the incident occurred and that he was competent to stand trial.

Sellers said the case was very emotional.

“It’s just very tragic,” Sellers said, adding that the plea “was a good way to protect both the community and give closure to the parents so they don’t have to relive it. Their child was only five months old and it was hard on them.”

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