Man sentenced for abuse of son

January 17, 2001

Man sentenced for abuse of son

By MARLO BARNHART / Staff Writer

Prosecutors on Tuesday recommended an 18-month jail sentence for a Hagerstown man charged with "starving, neglecting and beating up" his 2-year-old son.

Donald Lee Kennedy faced up to 15 years in prison.

Based on the prosecution's recommendation, Washington County Circuit Judge Kennedy Boone imposed a 10-year prison sentence and suspended all but 18 months, to be served in the Washington County Detention Center.

"There is a problem of proof here," Boone said. "But this happened on your watch. ... Only you know the extent of your involvement."

Kennedy, 30, of 12307 Learning Lane, entered an Alford plea to one count of child abuse. Under an Alford plea, a defendant acknowledges the prosecution has sufficient evidence to gain a conviction but does not admit guilt.


The child, Joshua Matthew Howlett, now 3, had bleeding on both sides of his brain, said Assistant Washington County State's Attorney Susan Lochbaum who spoke with the child's doctor at Johns Hopkins Hospital last spring.

"He said the child had been starved, neglected and beaten up," Lochbaum said at an April hearing to determine Kennedy's bond.

According to court records, Williamsport Ambulance personnel rushed the child to Washington County Hospital at 12:15 a.m. on March 27, 2000, after getting a call from Kennedy that the child had fallen out of bed.

Dr. Thomas Gilbert, attending physician at Washington County Hospital that morning, told authorities the boy had a skull fracture at the back of his right ear, bruising on his mouth and chin, old and new bruising on his forehead, old bruising on the left eye, new bruising on the right eye and retinal hemorrhaging to both eyes, among other injuries, court records stated.

Gilbert told Washington County Sheriff's Department Investigator Kenneth Cain that, in his opinion, the injuries were "100 percent child abuse."

Cain said he noticed alcohol on Kennedy's breath and the defendant told him he had three beers, court records stated.

Kennedy told Cain he put the boy to bed at 9 p.m. and at 9:30, he went in and found him on the floor, not breathing, court records stated. He said he began CPR and called 911 and family members.

Kennedy denied hurting the child, court records stated.

In court Tuesday, Kennedy's wife, who is the mother of the child, tearfully pleaded with Boone to allow Kennedy to remain at home with her, Joshua and his twin brother, Jason.

"I don't think he hurt Joshua," said Lisa Howlett. "We're back home now together. I don't want my family apart."

Without implying his client's guilt, defense attorney Gordon Lynn told the judge Tuesday that Kennedy has changed since the incident.

Kennedy said he understands that it looks like a bad situation but he denied beating his child.

"He seems happy with me," Kennedy said. "I spent a long time making things right so I can stay with my children."

In exchange for the plea, charges of first- and second-degree assault and reckless endangerment were dropped.

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