A Helena man convicted of fracturing his baby’s skull was sentenced to 20 years in the Montana State Prison with five of those suspended.
Aaron Joel Oliphant was convicted of felony aggravated assault in late September after a three-day trial.
Oliphant was the sole caretaker of the boy on the day of the incident in summer 2016, according to court documents. The case was brought to the attention of law enforcement officials after Oliphant and his wife took the baby to the emergency room. The boy had brain bleeding consistent with "non-accidental trauma from a caretaker," the documents state.
When medics assessed the child at St. Peter's Hospital the next morning, staff informed the couple that their baby "had bleeding in his head which was usually associated with someone shaking the baby or dropping the baby on his head," court documents state. The boy was taken to a children's hospital in Salt Lake City for further treatment.
County Attorney Leo Gallagher recommended 20 years in the Montana State Prison with no time suspended for Oliphant due to the ongoing medical issues the child is facing, including seizures, deficits with speech and balance and potential brain damage.
“It’s a lifelong problem for this child that he caused,” Gallagher said.
Gallagher also pointed to Oliphant’s attempts to cover up the damage he had caused to the child.
“It’s a special guy who can watch a child die,” Gallagher said.
Judge Mike Menahan found multiple factors surrounding the case to support the 15 year sentence, including overwhelming evidence of injuries and the suffering of the child. Oliphant is also required to pay restitution costs for health care and the lost wages of the child’s mother.
“There is absolutely no excuse for the injuries wrought upon this child,” Menahan said.