Crime & Courts

August 6, 2011

Maximum sentence in killing of 10-month-old

At Shawn Blackburn's sentencing Friday, the issue was whether he would get the maximum sentence for second-degree reckless murder.

At Shawn Blackburn's sentencing Friday, the issue was whether he would get the maximum sentence for second-degree reckless murder.

The rest of the hearing was about emotion, grief and loss over the killing of a 10-month-old boy, Karsyn Young. About how Karsyn's grandmother keeps one of his blankets. About how his mother feels guilty that she wasn't there to protect him.

Sedgwick County District Court Judge Ben Burgess admonished the relatives gathered in the courtroom — Blackburn's family and Karsyn's family. Burgess said that although he realizes that the death of a child triggers powerful emotions, he would insist on decorum.

The facts:

In March 2010, Karsyn's mother, Stormie Young, left Karsyn in the care of Blackburn, her ex-boyfriend. Emergency crews found Karsyn unresponsive and cold to the touch when they answered a call that he was not breathing at Blackburn's duplex near 13th and Tyler. Authorities said Karsyn suffered fatal blunt-force injuries, particularly to his abdomen.

After being charged with first-degree murder and felony child abuse, Blackburn, now 23, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge under an agreement with prosecutors.

On Friday, Blackburn, standing in handcuffs and chains at a podium, said he felt "deeply sorry" for what happened and promised not to do anything like it again.

Karsyn's maternal grandmother, Lynette Schroff, brought to court a bag of Karsyn's things — a blanket he received not long after he was born, pajamas he wore a couple nights before he died and one of his toy trains, which had been placed atop his casket.

"He was a defenseless baby," Schroff told the judge through tears.

At one point, Burgess let Schroff walk up to him so she could show him snapshots of a smiling Karsyn.

As a matter of principle, she said, Blackburn should have to pay $1 a week for the rest of his life to the group Parents of Murdered Children. It would be a way to remind Blackburn of the life that he took, she said.

Then Schroff's daughter — Karsyn's mother, Stormie Young — told the judge about being told by a detective that "Karsyn is no longer with us."

Tearfully, she told of feeling the pain of the realization that "my baby wasn't coming home."

She told of wondering how someone could reach a point where he would hurt a baby so seriously.

She told of feeling guilt every day she wakes up, knowing "I wasn't there to protect my baby," how she will "grieve over my baby for the rest of my life."

As a result of what happened to Karsyn, Young said, she has lost her other children in a custody battle with the state.

Wayne Root — the fiance of Schroff, Karsyn's grandmother — told Burgess that even the maximum sentence is "not enough" and should not be considered justice.

While Karsyn's relatives spoke to the judge, Blackburn remained at the podium with his head bowed.

When it was time to announce the sentence, Burgess said there were no words he could say to soothe the grief.

Prosecutors called for the maximum sentence — 10 years and three months. Blackburn's attorney, Charlie O'Hara, said his client had never been in serious trouble before and that it was a "classic case of reckless second-degree murder."

Burgess explained that under the law there were limits to the sentence he could impose — a range from 109 months to 123 months, or a maximum of 10 years and three months. Blackburn will be eligible to receive a 15 percent reduction in the time he serves if he shows good behavior.

And then the judge announced the sentence: the maximum, 10 years and three months, followed by three years of supervision after his release from prison.

Also, the judge noted, when Blackburn leaves prison, he will have to report his address to the Kansas Offender Registry, and because he is a convicted felon, he won't be able to have a firearm. He will have to pay $4,107 in restitution.

Later, outside the courthouse, Schroff, Karsyn's grandmother, said, "There's no way that this was justice."

Root, her fiance, said, "The penalty does not fit the crime. ... This was a child's life, and that's it? I have a hard time accepting that."

Schroff said she plans to push for tougher laws for anyone who injures or kills a child.

"Our lives will never be the same," she said.

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