MACHIAS, Maine — An East Machias man pleaded guilty Friday in the death of his 2-year-old stepson and was sentenced to serve 7½ years behind bars.
William L. Bryson, 23, entered the plea and was sentenced Friday morning in Washington County Superior Court, according to state and court officials. Justice Kevin Cuddy gave Bryson an overall sentence of 15 years with all but 7½ years suspended and six years of probation, the officials said.
He began serving his sentence immediately after Friday’s court proceeding, according to an assistant court clerk.
Bryson was charged with manslaughter after his young stepson Damon Edward Nason died in March 2008.
Bryson initially told police he had been giving the boy a bath on March 1, 2008, when he stepped away from the bathroom and then the boy fell in the tub. Damon was taken to Down East Community Hospital in Machias that afternoon after Tawnya Bryson, his mother, received an emergency text message from her husband while she was at work.
A nurse at the hospital later showed police bruise marks the toddler had on his chin, head, throat and buttocks and a red mark next to his left eye. Bryson told officials the bruises on the boy’s head were where he had “smacked” the child to try to wake him up.
Emergency personnel told police that when they saw the child after he supposedly fell, he was dry, which seemed to conflict with Bryson’s story that the boy had been taking a bath.
Damon died the next day after he had been transferred to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor and subsequently was taken off life support.
After conducting an autopsy on the child, Maine Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Margaret Greenwald told police the child’s death should be treated as a homicide.
Bryson’s defense attorney, Norman Toffolon of Machias, did not immediately return a voice mail message left Friday afternoon at his office.
Kate Simmons, spokeswoman for the Maine Attorney General’s Office, said Friday that the sentence was the result of a joint recommendation by state prosecutors and by Toffolon. Simmons declined further comment about the case.
Bryson initially pleaded not guilty after being indicted in March 2008 by a Washington County grand jury on a charge of manslaughter. According to The Associated Press, Deputy Attorney General William Stokes said Bryson agreed to plead guilty in return for a cap on his prison sentence.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.