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Shaken baby abuse

Robert Curlee holds a picture of his stepson Jace who was abused by his birth father.

A 31-year-old Longview man was sentenced to nearly 3 1/2 years in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to shaking his infant son last December when the child wouldn’t stop crying.

According to court records, Brooks Hamilton admitted to abusing his infant son Jace after the child was taken to Randall Children’s Hospital in February with a traumatic brain injury.

Robert Curlee, Jace’s stepfather, spoke with reporters Thursday afternoon from his Longview home after returning from Hamilton’s sentencing.

“He’s an amazing little kid,” Curlee said. “He’s surrounded by a lot of positive people now. ... I want him to see that he can be a better man than his father was.”

Holding a framed picture of his stepson, gazing down as though it was the real thing, Curlee spoke about Jace’s progress. Jace is doing better — he’s receiving physical therapy once a week, Curlee said, and the physical signs of his injuries are no longer apparent. But he is somewhat developmentally delayed, he said.

“I’ve been in the picture more than half his life,” said Curlee, who has been with Jace and his mother since April, in an interview with reporters from KATU News and The Daily News. “I wish I was there from the beginning.”

Curlee and Jace’s mother are expecting a second child soon, he said.

Along with his time in prison, Hamilton also received a 10-year no-contact order and will serve 1 1/2 year on probation once he is released from prison.

Curlee, who works at Stirling Honda, believes Hamilton should have received a life sentence. He said he just wants to know why Hamilton did it.

“Kids cry,” he said. “You find out what’s wrong with them.”

Hamilton was originally charged with two counts of first-degree assault of a child and one count of second-degree assault of a child, but two of the three counts were dismissed at his guilty plea and sentencing hearing.

According to court documents, Kelso police were first alerted in February by staff at Randall’s Children Hospital to a possible child abuse case involving then 4-month-old Jace, who had a condition involving bleeding in the brain and a hemorrhage in one eye.

The injuries were of a type typically caused by abusive head trauma, a doctor who spoke with police said. When interviewed by police, Hamilton denied any knowledge of how Jace was injured and said Jace had suddenly become unresponsive.

Jace was in the intensive care unit for four days, Curlee said, and might have died had it not been for the paramedics and firefighters who responded.

In later interviews with police, Hamilton admitted that his “conscience had been bothering him” and said that on at least two occasions, he shook Jace when the child would not stop crying. He was alone with Jace in both incidents, he said.

Curlee said he is speaking out because he wants other parents to “keep (their) head on a swivel” for signs of child abuse.

Suspected child abuse can be reported local law enforcement agencies or by contacting the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233.

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