UPDATE: 'This atrocious behavior cannot be tolerated by society' (w/video)

UPDATE: 'This atrocious behavior cannot be tolerated by society' (w/video)

URBANA — A 23-year-old Rantoul man who inflicted serious injuries on a 16-month-old child in his care is headed to prison for 20 years.

Judge Tom Difanis noted that even though Christopher Collins had no prior criminal convictions and is considered a good person by many, "the abuse inflicted on this child was horrific."

"This atrocious behavior cannot be tolerated by society," the veteran jurist said Monday.

Collins, who last lived in an apartment on Falcon Drive with the child's mother and the child's older sister, was convicted by a jury in October of aggravated battery to a child.

Testimony at trial revealed that while the toddler was being cared for by Collins on Sept. 20, 2015, she sustained three skull fractures, bleeding in the brain, a broken wrist and multiple bruises.

"I want to apologize and say how sorry I am for the pain and suffering to both families," said Collins. "I am incredibly sorry."

Several family members and friends of both Collins and the baby's mother, Sonya Dempsey, were present for the hourlong sentencing hearing.

Collins never gave Rantoul police a clear picture of what exactly he did to the younger daughter of his then-girlfriend, who had left her two girls in his care while she worked, slept and later attended a baby shower.

But two doctors who testified at his trial were adamant that the injuries were intentional and that a substantial amount of adult force was needed to have caused them.

Dempsey took 20 minutes to read aloud for Difanis a statement she wrote about what the injuries to her daughter have done to her and her family.

She described returning to her apartment that day to find a listless child in need of emergency care. At Carle Foundation Hospital, where her daughter spent more than three weeks, she recalled the "rage and heartache" she felt upon learning that the injuries could not have been accidental and had been intentionally inflicted.

"If it had been just two hours later, my daughter would not have survived," Dempsey said.

She said the loss of income from not working while the baby was hospitalized forced her to move in with her grandparents.

Both her girls, she said, now ages 3 and 4, frequently wake at night screaming. Dempsey told the judge she believes her older daughter witnessed the beating Collins inflicted on her younger sister.

"I will never understand why he did it and I will never be able to give her the answers," she said.

Dempsey said she fears that her daughter's development, already somewhat delayed by her injuries, may be an even bigger problem in the future.

"He did not give (her) a chance to live a normal life. He should not be able to live a normal life," Demspey said.

Assistant State's Attorney Troy Lozar argued for a 23-year prison sentence for Collins, who could have received 30 years.

"The fact he did it once with no predictors is of concern to the state," said the prosecutor. "There is no justification for what he did."

Collins' attorney, Lawrence Summers of Brookfield, called four witnesses to testify on behalf of his client. All described him as a good worker and a loving man who treated Dempsey and her daughters as his own family.

"It could be said that his momentary lapse had a severe impact on this child. We don't want to minimize that," said Summers, adding that a lengthy prison sentence would help neither Collins nor society.

"He's a young person. He may have taken on too much at one time. We don't know what prompted that lapse," Summers said, asking for the minimum sentence of six years.

Under truth-in-sentencing laws, Collins must serve 85 percent of his sentence, or 17 years. He was given credit for more than two years already served.

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