BANGOR, Maine — No amount of prison time ever will be enough to make up for the loss of her son, but to Cheryl Metzger of Bangor, the maximum sentence of 30 years imposed on the boy’s killer means that justice was at least served for Damien Lynn’s death at the age of 15 months.
Metzger, flanked Thursday by family outside the Penobscot Judicial Center, held a poster showing photos of her son. He died on Feb. 23, 2010, at the hands of her former boyfriend Edgard B. Anziani, 28, of Lawrence, Mass.
“No sentence will ever be enough to make up for this loss,” family spokesman Tokun Ashmore of Farmingdale said on behalf of Metzger and other relatives. “The fact that this is the longest sentence ever given in the state of Maine in the death of a child means her child’s death might not have been in vain.”
Superior Court Justice Michaela Murphy sentenced Anziani to 30 years in prison with all but 25 years suspended for manslaughter. In addition, she sentenced him to four years of probation and ordered that he pay $4,500 in restitution for the boy’s funeral expenses. The judge also dismissed a murder charge against Anziani, as was called for in his plea agreement with prosecutors.
Anziani pleaded guilty in April to manslaughter, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
His family left the courthouse Thursday without speaking to reporters.
Assistant Attorney General Leann Zainea, who prosecuted the case, said after the sentencing that she believed it was the longest sentence imposed in Maine for manslaughter in the death of a child.
“Justice was served here today,” she told reporters at an impromptu press conference outside the courthouse. “Clearly [the judge] understood the severity of his injuries and took that into consideration.”
The autopsy found that the boy “had extensive, catastrophic and lethal injuries from the top of his head to the bottom of his feet,” Zainea told Murphy.
His injuries included bleeding in his brain from being shaken violently, rib fractures, a human bite mark matched to Anziani on his arm with the arm bone beneath it broken in two places, and three small puncture wounds on the bottom of one foot, the prosecutor said.
Zainea recommended that Anziani be sentenced to 25 years in prison without a term of probation.
Defense attorney Jeffrey Silverstein of Bangor told the judge that some of those injuries, including the bite mark and rib fractures, were caused when Anziani tried to revive the child. Silverstein also said that his client suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder and severe depression and had no criminal record. The attorney recommend Anziani spend between 14 and 16 years behind bars with some term of probation.
Metzger told the judge during the sentencing hearing that her son would have been 31 months old this month.
“Without him, I feel so lost,” she said. “When I am having a rough day, I grab his clothes. I haven’t washed them because the scent of him is still on them. I don’t feel that any sentence would be good enough, nothing would be good enough. I want for him [Anziani] every day to feel pain.”
The child’s father, Patrick Lynn of Brunswick, Ga., was unable to attend the sentencing, his girlfriend, Toni Barronton of Eddington, said in a telephone interview Thursday evening. He and his elder son with Metzger, Isiah Lynn, now 3½, live with his family in Georgia. At the time of his son’s death, Lynn lived in Orrington.
“The family is relieved that Edgard got the maximum sentence for a manslaughter charge,” Barronton said on behalf of the Lynn family. “No amount of sentence would comfort them in any way. Hopefully, with this behind them, they will be able to move forward and find peace.”
Members of Anziani’s family, who came to the U.S. in 1994 from the Dominican Republic, told the judge that the defendant was not a violent person. Speaking through an interpreter, Anziani’s mother, Catalina Cruz of Lawrence, Mass., asked for forgiveness for her son.
“He’s suffering,” she said. “I’m suffering and I know the mother of the child is suffering. I hope the hand of God will be just here because my son is not bad.”
Anziani, who has appeared unemotional during court appearances, turned to face the mother of the child he killed in what his lawyer described as an act of “desperation and total frustration” at not being able to comfort the crying child.
“Cheryl, you trusted me to care for Damien and I failed you,” he said. “I am deeply sorry for my actions. I can’t begin to understand the pain I have caused you. I wish you better days ahead.”
In imposing the sentence, Murphy described the victim impact in the case “as severe and profound. Damien suffered significant pain, fear and helplessness before he died. His death has affected his mother and family deeply.”
Anziani has been held at Penobscot County Jail since his arrest in March 2010. That time will be applied to his sentence.
If he had been convicted of murder, Anziani would have faced a minimum sentence of 25 years in prison and a maximum sentence of life.
Anziani had been staying with Metzger at her apartment at 55 Bald Mountain Drive on and off for about four months and was caring for the toddler in the early morning hours of Feb. 23, 2010, while Metzger was in the hospital being treated for abdominal pain, according to police and court documents.
The toddler was unresponsive when rescue personnel responded to a 911 call just after 7 a.m.
Anziani, who had been alone with the child for several hours, met the ambulance and crew in the driveway and handed them the toddler, who “was blue and not breathing,” a police affidavit stated. An hour later, the child was pronounced dead at Eastern Maine Medical Center.
Anziani told police, Metzger and her family that the boy was injured when he fell down a flight of stairs at the apartment.
The state medical examiner’s office determined that the toddler’s injuries “could not be explained by a simple fall down six or seven steps,” the affidavit stated.
After receiving the autopsy report, Bangor police charged Anziani with murder on Feb. 25, 2010. By then, he had fled the area.
Anziani was arrested on March 1, 2010, by the FBI in Bladensburg, Md., and returned to Maine 10 days later.
After serving his sentence, Anziani is not likely to be set free. A native of the Dominican Republic who has lived in the United States most of his life, he is expected to be deported.
Silverstein said outside the courtroom that the sentence might be appealed.
“The judge rejected clear evidence that he was suffering from mental health issues,” he said. “To punish him for his mental health issues is unfair.”