Weatherford man sentenced to 20 years for crushing 1-month-old son's skull

Posted Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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A Weatherford man charged with crushing his 1-month-old son's skull in 2010 was sentenced Tuesday to 20 years in prison in a plea agreement reached with prosecutors. The boy died from the injuries

John Paul Webb, 37, pleaded guilty to a charge of serious bodily injury to a child and agreed to the maximum sentence. He was sentenced Tuesday in a Weatherford district court.

"This was a very challenging case," said Parker County Assistant District Attorney Robert DuBoise, who prosecuted the case along with Assistant District Attorney Nikki Morton. His statement came in a news release from the Parker County District Attorney's office.

"While we believe that Webb was responsible for causing the child's death and other injuries, to have proven this case we would have had to prove that Webb intended to kill the child. Because no one witnessed Webb injure the child, the only way to prove his intent would be circumstantially. To prove his state of mind beyond a reasonable doubt was going to be difficult."

The child's mother agreed to the plea, DuBoise said.

"In preparing for trial, we examined cell phone records, text messages, and posts on social networking sites, and what we found was that since her husband's arrest, the mother made several statements claiming that John Webb did not kill their child," DuBoise said in the news release. "While we understand that the loss of her son and the incarceration of her husband placed enormous stresses upon her, we believe that certain conduct and statements by her would serve to confuse the jury at trial. We've discussed these issues with the mother and she is fully supportive of a plea bargain in this case."

Before his arrest in October 2010, Webb had been arrested three times on suspicion of family violence.

His son, Christian Webb, born Sept. 9, 2010, died in October 2010 at Cook Children's Medical Center in Fort Worth from blunt force trauma to the head and brain, according to the Tarrant County medical examiner's office.

In an interview with the Star-Telegram shortly after Webb was arrested in October 2010, Sheriff Larry Fowler said the child's injuries are the worst that he has seen in nearly 48 years as a law enforcement officer.

"The severity of this was just off the scale," Fowler said in that interview. "If you saw these pictures, you'd just grit your teeth. It took a tremendous blow to the back of that baby's head to crack it like an egg shell."

Child Protective Services had no previous contact with the family.

Detectives said they believe that Christian was beaten at the Webb family home, in the 550 block of Wood Hollow Drive, a rural area southwest of Weatherford.

A probable-cause affidavit filed by the Sheriff's Department said Christian's mother, Angelica Joyce Ahern-Webb, called an ambulance in October 2010.

She later told detectives that Christian was in his crib when she went to bed but that she awoke with him in bed with her. Ahern-Webb started to change his diaper, but he was "cold, unresponsive and had blood on his lips," according to the affidavit.

She turned to Webb, the document said, and demanded, "What happened to my baby last night while I was asleep?"

He said nothing happened, and she called an ambulance.

Ahern-Webb "reported that the injuries may have been caused from a minor vehicle accident with a motorcycle the previous day," the affidavit says. Ahern-Webb told detectives that a motorcycle bumped her vehicle in another county, Fowler said.

Fowler was skeptical. A doctor at Cook told detectives that the injuries were "consistent with abuse," the affidavit says.

Christian had "multiple skull fractures, rib fractures, brain swelling and bleeding, a torn frenulum, bleeding in the abdomen, bruising on the face, and bruises on the arms," the document says.

A social worker at the hospital told the Sheriff's Department dispatch center that while Ahern-Webb was at the hospital with her baby, she was contacted by Webb, who was threatening suicide, the affidavit says.

Sheriff's deputies went to the family's home and tried to contact Webb, but no one answered the door.

Webb held authorities at bay during a brief standoff, but he later surrendered without incident.

The previous family violence reports were for assaults on Christian's mother. Jail records show that Webb was arrested in December 2009 and July and September 2010.

This report includes information from Star-Telegram archives.

Domingo Ramirez Jr., 817-390-7763

Twitter: @mingoramirezjr

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