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After infant's death, family's push brings Annapolis bill

Del. Shank files bill in memory of baby killed by mother's boyfriend

Del. Shank files bill in memory of baby killed by mother's boyfriend

January 30, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

ANNAPOLIS -- Backing a family's cry to get tougher on child abuse, Del. Christopher B. Shank filed a bill in memory of a Washington County infant killed by his mother's former boyfriend.

If passed, "Justice's Law" would increase the maximum sentence for abuse that causes a child's death.

Currently, first-degree child abuse carries a maximum of 25 years in prison.

If the baby dies, the sentence can be up to 30 years. Shank's bill would raise the penalty to life in prison.

The name on the bill refers to 4-month-old Justice Christopher Calvin Myers-Cannon, who died Jan. 6, 2007.

Floyd Edward Bingaman III, 21, of Hagerstown, was found guilty in November of involuntary manslaughter, first-degree child abuse and second-degree assault in Justice's death.

The lead investigator in the case, Greg Alton of the Washington County Sheriff's Department, on Tuesday called it the worst case in his 13 years with the department, including 10 as a police officer.

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Bingaman was sentenced Jan. 3 to 30 years in prison.

Two days later, Justice's grandfather, Bob Spessard, appeared at a public meeting with the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly. He urged legislators to make first-degree child abuse a crime that triggers a first-degree murder charge when the victim dies.

Shank, R-Washington, said Tuesday he considered that, but there were logistical problems. Instead, his bill, which he filed Monday, proposes changing the penalty for first-degree child abuse, although he's open to reshaping the bill further.

Recalling the day Spessard lobbied the delegation, Shank said, "It didn't take a whole lot of convincing that we need to make some changes here. If an innocent child is killed, the appropriate penalty ought to be life (in prison)."

Three other Republicans representing Washington County - LeRoy E. Myers Jr., Robert A. McKee and Richard B. Weldon Jr. - are co-sponsors.

"The penalty should be more severe," McKee said.

"Anything that keeps those types of individuals behind bars longer, I'll continue to support, no matter what it is ...," Myers said. "It just may protect that one person."

Spessard said he was prepared for the fight to change Maryland law to take five or 10 years and was surprised how quickly legislation was introduced.

"Mr. Shank jumped on it right away," he said.

Spessard is optimistic the bill will receive widespread support.

"Anybody who has children, who cares about children, should want this," he said. "It's making people who hurt children think, 'If I do this, I'm going away for a long time, and it's really not going to be a nice place.'"

Alton agreed with raising the maximum sentence.

"You don't get much worse than a crime against a child," he said.

He praised Shank for acting quickly and Justice's family for taking a stand.

"It shows the difference citizens can make when they get involved in the process," Alton said.

Staff writer Heather Keels contributed to this story

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