A 32-year-old woman in Kentucky was sentenced to more than three decades behind bars for beating her toddler son to death in 2019. A state judge on Tuesday handed down a prison sentence of 35 years to Stacey Schuchart for killing 17-month-old Sean Buttery Jr., who was so battered that the coroner said his injuries were akin to having been in a “serious car accident.”
“I can tell you that, in terms of the case itself, this was just a horrifying case,” Chief Assistant Commonwealth Attorney Mike Zimmerman told Law&Crime in a phone interview.
Schuchart in February reached a deal with prosecutors in the Campbell County Commonwealth Attorney’s Office and pleaded guilty to one count of murder in exchange for a recommended sentence of 35 years. Under Kentucky state law, Schuchart will be eligible for parole in 20 years.
Eligibility to appear before the state parole board in Kentucky is mandatory after a defendant serves 20 years or 85-percent of their prison sentence, whichever is less, and was not negotiated as part of Schuchart’s plea agreement, prosecutors noted to Law&Crime.
“This was an incredibly difficult case—one of more horrific murders that I’ve seen in my time as a prosecutor,” Zimmerman said. “Any time you deal with the murder of child, particularly at hands of the child’s biological mother, it’s tough. It just really lent us to the conclusion that Stacey Schuchart had to go away for a very long time.”
Zimmerman, who was the primary architect of the plea agreement that will ensure Schuchart is behind bars for multiple decades, said it was important to prevent Schuchart from having the opportunity to harm her surviving children.
“That was part of our thought process and entering into an agreement for a 35 year sentence,” Zimmerman said, referring to the well-being of Schuchart’s other children. “Obviously, serving 35 years would put her well into her older years as relates to her ability to be in their lives. Now, we can be sure that these children will grow up reach the age of majority without her in their lives.”
According to a probable cause affidavit obtained by the Cincinnati Enquirer, Schuchart on Aug. 16, 2019 called 911 and told an emergency dispatcher that she was at home with Sean and his 3-year-old brother when Sean hit his head on the microwave and stopped breathing. Officers with the Dayton Police Department and Emergency Medical Services personnel responded to the home.
Upon arriving at the scene, first responders reportedly found an unresponsive Sean in critical condition. Authorities reportedly noted in the affidavit that Sean had sustained “a collection of injuries beyond bumping his head on the microwave.” EMS transported the toddler to the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center where doctors attempted to resuscitate Sean. He was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the facility.
The Hamilton County Coroner’s Office performed an autopsy and reportedly determined that Sean died due to “homicidal violence.” The child had suffered “significant traumatic injury,” including severe bruising to several areas of his head and eyes, and swelling of the brain consistent with repeated blunt force trauma. The severity of the injuries was deemed consistent with what the coroner said she “would expect from a serious car accident,” Cincinnati NBC affiliate WLWT reported.
Sean also reportedly sustained at least four fractures to his pelvis indicating that someone had “stomped on” him while he was on the floor, causing internal bleeding and completely detaching his bladder from his skeletal system.
Additionally, one of the child’s arms was broken, likely due to it being grabbed and twisted, per WLWT.
The coroner’s report emphasized that any collision Sean may have had with the microwave played no role in his death, outright stating that the toddler was “beaten to death,” per the Cincinnati Enquirer.
The boys’ father had reportedly left for work early on the morning Sean sustained his fatal injuries. He told police that both boys were not injured the previous night when he went to sleep.
Making matters even worse, while Schuchart was Sean’s biological mother, the state had obtained a court order removing the toddler and his older brother from her home and placing them in the care of her sister, per the Cincinnati Enquirer. Despite the court order, prosecutors reportedly said there was evidence the children had been living with her illegally for a least a month prior to Sean’s grisly death.
This is one that will stick with us for a long time,”Commonwealth Attorney Michelle Snodgrass told Law&Crime.
She noted that part of the motivation for prosecutors to reach a plea agreement with Schuchart was to save Sean’s relatives from having to relive the trauma of his death at a criminal trial.
“Fortunately for the child’s father, Stacey was willing to plead guilty and accept responsibility for her actions,” Snodgrass said. “That saves him and the family from having to go through a trial and the appeals process and everything else that process entails. Although it will take them a long time to get over Sean’s death, at least the healing process has started.”
[image via Campbell County Jail]
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