Man sentenced to 38 years for killing his infant daughter in Parachute
February 3, 2017
Matthew Ogden was sentenced Friday to 38 years in prison for killing his baby daughter in June 2015 in his Parachute apartment.
Initially charged with first-degree murder, Ogden pleaded guilty to reckless child abuse resulting in death. That's a class 2 felony with a plea deal stipulation for sentencing to prison for 30 to 40 years. Under the original first-degree murder charge, Ogden was facing life in prison.
The prosecution and defense Friday argued for the maximum and minimum, respectively, of that range.
Judge John Neiley, deciding to go toward the upper end of the range, said he found it very distressing that the defendant, the sole possessor of the truth of what happened that night, was still unwilling to take responsibility.
However, Neiley said, "This was not an accident," rejecting defense contentions.
Ogden was arrested in the death of his daughter, Sarah Ogden, after his wife, Phyllis Wyatt, told investigators that she awoke either late June 19 or early June 20, 2015, see her husband holding their newborn by the waist, yelling and shaking her violently, according to police. He took her into the next room, she said, where she continued to hear shouting, pounding and thumping.
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Emergency workers arriving at the couple's Parachute apartment the next morning could not revive the infant. Causes of death were later found to be a fractured skull, hemorrhaging to Sarah's brain and a lacerated liver.
Montrose Public Defender Kori Zapletal argued Friday against claims that Ogden had shaken Sarah.
A forensic pathologist enlisted by the defense said that the physical evidence pointed to accidental injuries; the physical evidence did not indicate the injuries the prosecution has relied upon, said Zapletal.
But Deputy District Attorney Matthew Barrett disputed that finding, saying the prosecution had two of its own doctors who found the opposite.
The defense ultimately argued that the incident leading to Sarah's injuries was an accident, though one that was apparently reckless enough to warrant Ogden's guilty plea. The defense said during sentencing that Sarah's head injury came about when Ogden was carrying her out of the bedroom and banged her head on a doorjamb.
Judge Neiley said he had reviewed hours of police interrogations and interviews, had watched and heard and read how Ogden's story had frequently changed – what he called "a litany of excuses for what happened."
"It was just, frankly, unbelievable," said Neiley.
And that string of changing stories continues today, said the judge.
With that in mind, the judge said he was inclined to sentence Ogden to the maximum under the plea deal. But the judge noted some mitigating factors, including legitimate mental health issues.
The defense and Ogden's family said Friday that he had been diagnosed with several conditions, including bipolar and schizoaffective disorders.
At the same time the judge did not believe this was a purposeful killing.
This is among the most grave and serious crimes that the court encounters, said Neiley. "As a society, we cannot tolerate these types of crimes."
And the judge said he wanted to make clear to people with children that they will be punished severely for this crime.
"I don't know how we get justice for victims in a case like this," said Neiley.
Former District Attorney Sherry Caloia, in discussing the plea deal in December, called it a fair and harsh deal for Ogden, one that takes into account the infant's death but that also takes into account that Ogden didn't intend the result.
The plea bargain also has precedent across the state in similar cases of a child death when what led up to it is not really clear, Caloia said.
Caloia lost her re-election bid in November but said that result did not play into the plea deal. The plea deal was in the works and accepted before the election, she said.
Ogden and Wyatt fled Colorado shortly after being interviewed by police. Sarah had a twin brother who was not injured in the incident and was taken from the couple, who were arrested in northern Minnesota and brought back to Colorado to face charges.
Wyatt pleaded guilty to criminally negligent child abuse resulting in death and was sentenced to eight years in prison.
During court proceedings, investigators said the couple had moved to Colorado from California because they feared losing custody of the newborns over their marijuana use, she said.