A New Mexico man was sentenced to 30 years in prison on Tuesday for not doing enough to help his 9-year-old step son who police said was kicked to death by the boy’s mother two years ago.
Stephen Casaus was convicted by a jury in September of five counts including child abuse with reckless disregard resulting in the death of the child, Omaree Varela, and he had faced up to 35 years behind bars. The child’s mother, Synthia Varela-Casaus, is scheduled for a mental competency hearing in January.
Police have accused the couple of waiting nearly an hour after the incident on Dec. 27, 2013, before calling 911.
Casaus told the court in Albuquerque he was “heartbroken every day” by what had happened, that he had made mistakes in his life, but that he was not a child abuser.
But District Court Judge Stan Whitaker told him he found it “difficult, difficult, difficult” to believe that a mistake had led to the death of the boy.
“Nobody disagrees with you that we wish this day had never occurred and that Omaree as a child would not have suffered as he did,” Whitaker said. “Certainly, his mom will be held accountable for her part, but we’re not here for her part, we’re here about your part.”
The judge sentenced Casaus to 30 years followed by two years of parole then five years of supervised probation.
Casaus could also face an additional nine years in prison on state drug dealing and federal weapons charges for possessing a firearm as a convicted felon.
(Reporting by Joseph Kolb; Editing by Daniel Wallis, Bernard Orr)