KING WILLIAM — Judge Thomas B. Hoover exceeded sentencing guidelines Wednesday when he ordered a West Point man serve five years in prison for involuntary manslaughter in the 2011 death of his infant daughter.
Kenneth Wyatt, 27, was sentenced to 10 years in prison with five years suspended and 25 years probation in King William Circuit Court. Sentencing guidelines for involuntary manslaughter call for probation, or incarceration up to six months, but the judge did not feel those guidelines accounted for the "aggravated facts" in this case — the victim was five months-old and the daughter of the accused.
"The parent should be one of two people who are most protective of their child," Hoover said. "The (sentencing) guidelines are a great help, but sometimes they're wrong."
Kaylee Wyatt's death was ruled a homicide three years ago this July after an autopsy report revealed that the child died from blunt force head injuries as a result of "shaken baby syndrome".
Wyatt was initially facing a second degree murder charge. He entered an Alford plea on March 19 to the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter just a day before his jury trial was set to begin. Under the Alford plea, the defendant does not admit guilt, but acknowledges there is enough evidence for a conviction.
As part of the plea agreement, a felony child abuse and neglect charge was also nolle prossed, which means the charge is dropped but can be filed again in the future if new or more evidence is found.
Wyatt could have received up to 40 years for the second degree murder charge and 10 years for the child abuse and neglect charge.
The infant's mother, Courtney Nolf, 24, of Hampton, pleaded guilty last year to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the child's death. She was sentenced on Feb. 12 to 10 years in prison with eight suspended.
Wyatt and Nolf were first arrested in July 2011 and charged with child abuse. Nolf was also initially charged with homicide.
However, the charges against both were nolle prossed just five months later after new evidence was released by the Medical Examiner's Office.
New charges were filed against the two in July 2013 following a lengthy investigation by the West Point Police Department.
According to court records, fire and rescue personnel responded to the Wyatt residence in West Point on June 27, 2011, and carried the unresponsive infant to Sentara Medical Center in Williamsburg where Dr. Elizabeth Buetow determined that the child had "significant head and eye injuries consistent with abusive head trauma.". She was then transported to the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughters (CHKD) in Norfolk.
West Point Police Investigator David Taylor and Child Protective Services Social Worker Ivey Blunt responded to CHKD and met with Dr. Verena Wyvill, who at the time was a Child Abuse Pediatrics Fellow in CHKD's Child Abuse Program. Wyvill reported that "the child had swelling of her brain and subdural hemorrhages," Commonwealth's Attorney Matthew Kite told the court during Kenneth Wyatt's trial in March. "Kaylee (Wyatt) also had significant retinal hemorrhaging in both eyes. There were no visible bruises on the child."
"(Kenneth Wyatt) stated that the day before, Sunday, June 26, Kaylee had what (he) called a seizure at lunch time," Kite said. "(Kenneth Wyatt and Nolf) discussed taking Kaylee for medical care, but did not."
According to Kite, Nolf went to the Sentara emergency room in Williamsburg the evening of June 26, 2011 for a headache and did not return to the West Point residence until 1 a.m. the next day. Kaylee Wyatt was in the care of her father while Nolf was gone. During this time, the child reportedly had another seizure-like episode. Still, no one sought medical attention.
"Nothing was done for Kaylee (Wyatt) until the defendant's father alerted (Kenneth Wyatt and Nolf) to call 911 a little after noon on June 27, 2011," when the child was unresponsive and cold to the touch, Kite told the court earlier this year. "By the time she arrived at the hospital, the brain swelling was quite significant. (She) was also past the point that any neurosurgery intervention was possible."
Kite said that Dr. Thomas Cholis, who treated Kaylee Wyatt in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), believed that if the infant had received medical attention earlier she could have survived.
Kaylee Wyatt was determined to be brain dead on June 30, 2011. She was kept on life support for another day so her organs could be donated.
"(Kenneth) Wyatt was arguably the only person who was present the entire time Kaylee is slowly dying in that house and he never sought medical help," Kite told the judge during Wyatt's sentencing on June 25.
"It's an outrageously egregious situation. There was nobody in this child's life who cared enough to pick up the phone and call 911," he said. "A sentence of no less than five years is appropriate here."