KENNEBEC -- A Lyman County court sentenced Gerald Brink on Friday morning to spend 40 years in prison for killing his 7-week-old daughter in May 2017.
Brink, 38, was convicted of domestic abuse first-degree manslaughter, to which he pleaded guilty on Oct. 25. He was sentenced to 50 years in the state penitentiary with 10 years suspended, and he will be eligible for parole in 30 years.
The infant, Niveah Brink, was determined to have died from blunt force head trauma and traumatic brain injury. Her autopsy classified the death as a homicide. Brink admitted to hitting Niveah on the cheek and tossing her, then waiting three and a half hours after she hit her head before seeking help, said Deputy Attorney General Robert Mayer during his argument at Brink’s sentencing hearing.
“Frankly, the injuries to the child are such that, though Mr. Brink has admitted culpability here for the death of the child, his indication of how that death occurred or how those injuries occurred is simply not credible,” Judge John Brown said Friday prior to declaring Brink’s sentence. “This was a 7-week-old infant, obviously in no position to care for herself.”
Brown said that Brink had not initially been upfront with law enforcement about how his daughter’s injuries occurred. According to court documents, Brink first said that she had hit her head by falling forward. He later said that after she had spit up formula, he had hit her on the side of the face and threw her, at which time she hit her head on a dresser and fell to the ground.
Brink’s attorney, Brad Schreiber, said that Brink had waited to seek help because she was still alive after being injured and it was not until later on that he noticed something was wrong.
During his change of plea hearing, Brink said there “was a possibility” that the baby had hit her head when he threw her. Mayer said Friday that investigation revealed she had suffered between three and six blows to the head and that of the “constellation of injuries” that included the four skull fractures found, one was in a shape that indicated intentional, not accidental, trauma to the head.
After Brink called for help, a Lyman County sheriff’s deputy responded to Brink’s home and reportedly performed CPR on the infant until EMTs arrived. At a hospital in Pierre less than an hour later, Niveah was pronounced dead.
At Brink’s change of plea hearing in October, the state dropped additional charges of second-degree murder and aggravated battery of an infant. As part of his plea agreement, the maximum prison sentence he could receive was 50 years, though first-degree manslaughter is a Class C felony that could otherwise be punishable by up to life in prison.
On Friday, Mayer argued for the full 50 years, while Schreiber said that Brink recommended a 10-year sentence for himself in the case’s pre-sentence investigation.
“We know what Gerald did. We know what he’s admitted to and we’re not suggesting otherwise,” Schreiber said.
Schreiber requested the court take into account that Brink was the infant’s primary caretaker and that he had been so particular about her care that he hadn’t allowed anyone else to change her diapers, that his criminal history does not include violent offenses and that he had a difficult upbringing.
He also cited a psychological evaluation of Brink, in which a doctor found evidence of depression, a personality disorder, a possible learning disability and a mental disorder that impacts his thinking and judgment.
First-degree manslaughter is a crime of general intent, meaning that it’s only necessary for conviction to prove that the accused intended to commit the physical acts that led to a person’s death, not that they intended to kill the person. Mayer argued that it’s on that basis that Brink should be given the full 50 years in prison.
“Babies don’t need to die,” Mayer said. “Get the message: this behavior simply won’t be tolerated.”
The state called the infant’s mother, Hevin Mathis, as a witness at Brink’s sentencing hearing.
“Gerald Brink, words don’t even begin to explain how much hurt and pain you have caused,” Mathis said. “ … I loved my daughter so much, and you knew that. I don’t know anybody in their right mind who would do such a thing. When you sit there and won’t even look at me, it makes me feel like you have no remorse.”
Both sides referenced reports that showed the infant had sustained injuries prior to those that caused her death. Schreiber said there is no indication of where those injuries came from and said that they may have been inflicted by Niveah’s daycare providers or another unidentified source, though Mayer disagreed.
“This baby was in the defendant’s care. He was the primary caregiver. I don’t know what unknown source we’re talking about,” Mayer said.
Brink declined to comment at his sentencing.
According to statements made during the hearing, this is Brink’s fifth felony conviction, and the bulk of his prior convictions are related to theft. Brink, who has been held on bond since his arrest, will receive credit for the 587 days he’s already served in jail. He was ordered to pay $3,972 to the Crime Victims Compensation Fund, thousands more in court-appointed attorney’s fees and prosecution costs, $282.50 in restitution to Mathis and $104 in court costs.