SPRINGFIELD, MO. A man accused of killing his girlfriend's toddler because he was mad at the child's mother for having an abortion has been sentenced to life in prison.
In imposing the sentence Friday against Joseph W. Haslett, Greene County Circuit Judge Calvin Holden said Haslett was not only mean but "cruel to the young child."
Haslett, 26, of Springfield, was convicted in March of second-degree murder in the October 2005 death of 18-month-old Gavin Jordan. Authorities said Haslett intentionally suffocated the toddler by placing him in a headlock.
Haslett had been dating Gavin's mother, Jennifer L. Harvey. She pleaded guilty in April to felony child endangerment after admitting she suspected that Haslett had been abusing Gavin but allowed him to continue caring for the toddler. She will be sentenced June 22.
A prisoner who befriended Haslett in jail testified during the trial that Haslett told him he killed Gavin in revenge because Harvey had an abortion.
But Haslett's public defender, Christopher Hatley, contended Gavin's death was accidental.
The public defender said Haslett had abused illegal drugs and was not a "cold-blooded killer."
Assistant Greene County prosecutor Tyson Martin said Haslett did not have a severe addiction, was not on drugs during the killing and should not blame his actions on drugs.
"This world is full of drug users, and they don't go around killing little babies," he said.
During the hearing, the toddler's relatives asked for the life term, which was the maximum punishment.
"There's something horribly wrong with having to visit your grandson at the cemetery," said Tim Davis, Gavin's paternal grandparent.
But Rachel Goodman, Haslett's sister, said her brother was a kind, loving man who deserved a shorter prison term. She said she feared Haslett's young daughter will grow up without a father.
"The love that this little girl has for her father is unparalleled," she said.