URBANA — A Champaign man whose infant son died after he smashed his head against a kitchen cabinet has been sentenced to 14 years in prison.
“One cannot grasp the magnitude of the loss that Mr. Mobley’s temper tantrum caused,” Judge Heidi Ladd said Friday as she imposed the number of years that the state agreed to when Jaytwon Mobley, 21, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and endangering the life of a child for causing the Jan. 20 death of 4-month-old Kendall Spicer.
With credit for good behavior, Mobley could be released in about seven years.
In return for Mobley’s pleas, Assistant State’s Attorney Matt Banach agreed to dismiss a more serious charge of aggravated battery to a child that could have netted Mobley as many as 30 years behind bars.
The injuries that led to Kendall’s death took place at a home in the 1000 block of West Bradley Avenue that Mobley shared with the child’s mother.
She had left the infant in Mobley’s care on Jan. 18 while she did laundry at her mother’s home, according to Champaign police Detective Jody Cherry.
Under questioning by Banach, Cherry explained that the baby had been to the doctor for a checkup earlier that day and had received two vaccinations.
Returning home about 10:20 p.m., the mother went to check on her son only to have Mobley instruct her to let him sleep because he had been fussy due to the shots.
About an hour later, Mobley retrieved the unresponsive, limp child from his playpen. His mother called a patient advisory nurse, who told her to call 911. Too upset to tell the 911 operator what was happening, she handed the phone to Mobley, who claimed that the child was having an allergic response to the shots.
But at Carle Foundation Hospital, Cherry said, doctors found brain bleeding so severe that they could not treat Kendall and instead sent him to Children’s Hospital in Peoria. Within 12 hours, specialists there determined he had no brain activity. He was pronounced dead Jan. 20.
Cherry said Mobley initially told the child’s mother and her mother, and later him, that Kendall had lunged from his arms and struck his head on a door frame.
About two weeks later, when confronted with medical records and doctors’ opinions that the injuries could not have been caused that way, Cherry said Mobley came up with another version that built on his initial statement.
He said after the baby hit his head on the doorway, he put him in a car seat on a kitchen counter.
“He lifted Kendall up very quickly and smacked the front of his head on the upper cabinet with force that was very extensive,” Cherry said.
Asked to rate the amount of force on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the greatest, Mobley told Cherry it was a 10. He also told the detective he was scared so he put the baby back in his playpen, had a smoke, then took a nap.
The Peoria doctor who examined Kendall told Cherry that the amount of force used to strike Kendall was equal to falling on his head from a second-story window.
On cross-examination by Assistant Public Defender Andrea Bergstrom, Cherry said Mobley was always respectful in his contacts and never blamed anyone else for Kendall’s injuries.
To mitigate Mobley’s sentence, Bergstrom had his uncle, James Mobley, testify that Jaytwon Mobley was 7 years old when he saw his mother die of ovarian cancer. He then came to live with his uncle and was in and out of his home and that of another uncle.
The elder Mobley described his nephew as “fun, goofy, very loving, (with) a big heart” and said he never asked any of his extended family for help when his son was born.
Kendall’s mother, Cobanay Spicer, read aloud for Ladd a brief statement describing her overwhelming grief and guilt at not being able to protect her son.
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you that night. I don’t hate you, Jaytwon. I only hate the situation,” she said. “I forgive you, but I will never forget.”
Banach argued for Ladd to impose the 14 years on the manslaughter conviction and 10 on the endangerment of a child, to be served at the same time.
The prosecutor urged the judge to consider Mobley’s character “as demonstrated by his actions.”
“He was the only one who could have gotten (Kendall) help. ... His subsequent inaction and indifference are galling. He put it out of his mind and went to get a smoke,” Banach said.
Bergstrom countered that her client was not indifferent but “terrified, scared.”
“He made a grievously poor choice in not calling 911. He didn’t realize he made a fatally bad choice,” she said.
Bergstrom asked Ladd to consider probation or boot camp for Mobley, who had no prior criminal record and has strong family support.
When it was time to give his own statement, Mobley told Spicer that she didn’t have to hate him because he was “doing that for myself.”
“I am extremely sorry. You don’t have to blame yourself,” he said.
Ladd was unmoved by any suggestion of leniency, reciting into the record for a reviewing court that Mobley had “with all the full force he could muster, slammed (Kendall’s) head against the corner of a cabinet” then later talked the child’s mother out of checking on him.
As the baby’s father, Mobley “should have stood as a shield against the world as the protector of him. Instead, he was the one who killed him ... for being fussy,” Ladd said.
She went on to describe the “callousness” of Mobley for laying the severely injured child down and allowing him to suffer rather than seeking help.“That’s not panic. That’s indifference,” she said.
Supporters of both Mobley and Spicer sobbed as the sentence was pronounced.