A Park Hills man was sentenced in St. Francois County last week after pleading guilty to a felony child abuse charge.
Derick Boyce-Slezak, 25, appeared before Circuit Judge Wendy Wexler Horn on Friday, where he pleaded guilty to the Class D felony abuse or neglect of a child and was sentenced to the maximum allowed by law of seven years in prison.
When this case was filed in November of 2017, it was filed as the Class A felony of abuse or neglect of a child, which carried a potential life sentence, according to a press release from the St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney's Office.
"The Class A felony charge requires the death of a child, which thankfully did not occur in this case," the release stated. "Thus, it would be a perversion of justice to attempt to convict anyone of abuse resulting in death where no death occurred.
"After a review of the available evidence in this case by the current prosecuting attorney, it was clear the injuries to the child were indisputable and a result of both defendant's abuse and neglect," officials explained. "However, previous assertions that the burns were caused by a microwave oven is not supported by the evidence made available to us, nor supported by any testimony of any medical experts who treated the child.
"As prosecutors, we are required to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, not guilt by sensationalizing headlines. We have a code of ethics and rules of conduct that demands we only file charges we can prove," the statement read. "The extrajudicial statements made about this case previously are a reminder of why we let the evidence speak for itself in a court of law only."
The prosecutor's office added that the child is doing well, and family members were present for Friday's plea and sentencing hearing.
In January of 2019, Derick Boyce-Slezak's wife Mikala Boyce-Slezak, 25, appeared before Circuit Court Judge Jerel Poor and pleaded guilty to a charge of Class D felony child endangerment.
Judge Poor sentenced Mikala Boyce-Slezak to seven years in the Missouri Department of Corrections. The plea agreement required Mikala Boyce-Slezak to testify truthfully against Derick Boyce-Slezak at trial.
According to the previous reporting, Prosecuting Attorney Melissa Gilliam said the plea agreement was made before she took office on Jan. 1, 2019.
The probable cause statement states that during a Nov. 27, 2017 hearing, an investigator with the St. Francois County Prosecuting Attorney's Office was present for testimony from Mikala Boyce-Slezak relating to her child's injuries.
The investigator reported that on April 11, 2017, an infant, who was less than four months old at the time, was taken to Cardinal-Glennon Hospital Emergency Room for a rash on his face. The "rash" was determined to be a wound.
The wound's periphery was determined to be a first-degree burn, with the majority of the injury being a second-degree burn. A superficial second-degree burn was also visible on the front of the infant's scalp.
C.T. scans showed the infant was also suffering from a "vertical left parietal fracture" of the skull and a small left subdural hematoma. At the hospital, Derick and Mikala Boyce-Slezak claimed the burns were caused by a cleaning agent.
During testimony, the baby's mother claimed that someone had cleaned the infant's face with a towel that contained a bleach-type disinfectant. When asked about the head injuries and bruising, she invoked her Fifth Amendment right.
Then an investigator with the Missouri Children's Division testified that the baby's mother had previously stated she intended to testify that the head wounds were a result of Derick dropping the infant while trying to imitate what he saw on a television commercial.
The Children's Division employee also stated in the proceedings that Mikala Boyce-Slezak had claimed she had reason to believe Derick Boyce-Slezak had placed the infant in a microwave and turned it on for a "short period of time."
However, as the prosecutor's office explained, the evidence presented in the case did not support this claim.
Additional testimony revealed the infant had yet another fracture that was later discovered, according to previous reports.
Bobby Radford is a reporter for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com