Ex-trooper gets 7 years in prison

Wes Crider's estranged wife asks for probation so he can help care for severly disabled son

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— During a day when Wesley Crider sobbed at times, the former state trooper showed no emotion when he was sentenced Friday to six years in prison for causing injuries that left his infant son in a "vegetative state."

After an emotional five-hour hearing, District Court Judge Joel Thompson sentenced Crider, 28, to six years in the Colorado Department of Corrections for abusing his son, and a seventh year for violating bail bond conditions.

"You did not protect and serve, but caused bodily harm to your family and a person of the public," Thompson said to the former member of the Colorado State Patrol. "I can't imagine any human being afflicting that type of bodily injury on a child."

According to an arrest warrant, Crider caused "extensive internal devastation" to the head of his then 9-week old son, Matthew, on the night of Jan. 14. Doctors testified that Matthew was shaken violently.

Crider received prison time for guilty pleas to two felonies: child abuse resulting in serious injury through criminal negligence and violation of a restraining order.

Thompson sentenced Crider to six years for the abuse charge, which had a maximum of eight, and one year for the bond violation. The terms are to be served consecutively.

Immediately after the sentence, was pronounced, Crider, who was dressed neatly in olive dress pants, a navy shirt and cowboy boots, was taken into custody by the Routt County Sheriff's Office.

Thompson sent Crider to prison, despite Crider's estranged wife's plea that he receive probation.

Due to Matthew's current condition, medical bills have piled up on Crider's wife.

"It does not matter what happens," Jacquelyn Crider said. "It will not make Matthew normal. But I need money for Matthew. Wes can't help financially if he goes to prison."

Crider's attorney, Norm Townsend agreed.

"Wes Crider is a good man," he said. "He will not be able to help his family if he is in prison. He cannot make right what he has done sitting in jail.

"We have to move forward for what is best for society and also for his family."

During the hearing, Jacquelyn Crider took the stand as a witness for District Attorney Paul McLimans.

During more than one hour of testimony, she told the courtroom of Matthew's current condition.

"I have been told by doctors that in 20 years, Matthew will be a 20-year-old baby," she said. "He will not be able to do anything for himself.

"He does not function the way a normal 9-month-old should. He basically just lays there. I have no idea what the future holds for Matthew. Right now, he is a baby I care for. As he gets older, I'm not sure what I am going to do."

Jacquelyn Crider also testified that Matthew has eye problems, due to the injury.

"In his right eye, he can see bright light when it is directly shined in his eye," she said. "In his left eye, he can't see much."

During Jacquelyn Crider's testimony, her husband wept, especially when she described their son's condition.

Jaquelyn Crider also told the court of the couple's "rocky relationship" that involved an affair, her husband's repeated suicide threats and prior abuse of Matthew.

"The relationship was very rocky all along," she said. "The relationship was rocky when Matthew came along."

In November, Crider said she found out her husband was having an affair. She also told the court that on numerous occasions, her husband threatened to commit suicide.

"In March 1999, he put his service revolver in his mouth and told me to pull the trigger," she said.

She also testified that her husband treated their oldest son, 2-year-old Austin, differently than Matthew.

"He took Austin everywhere, even if it was to work on his truck," she said. "He adored Austin. With Matthew, he was very distant. It was not necessarily that he did not want anything to do with him, but distant."

The January incident was not the first time Wes harmed his son, Jacquelyn said. About a week before Christmas, she found bruises all over Matthew's body while bathing the infant.

"(Wes) told me that he had pinched Matthew because he was mad at me," she said.

To document the abuse, Jacquelyn took pictures of her son's injuries. The pictures were presented as evidence.

She said she did not report the incident, nor his suicide threats, due to her husband's position as a trooper. However, she did tell her husband to seek counseling for his actions, she said.

"Because Wes was a law enforcement officer, I did not feel comfortable reporting his actions to authorities," she said.

According to a presentencing investigation report, Wes Crider said he put Matthew down "roughly on a futon" at his Westwind townhouse in Hayden the night of Jan. 14.

Doctors who treated Matthew did not believe Crider's story. They believe the infant's injuries were consistent with shaken baby syndrome.

At the time of the incident, Crider's wife was working, cleaning houses in the Vail area.

"At 9 p.m., I called Wes," she said. "In the background I could hear Matthew crying. I asked if I should come home, and he said no."

He hung up the telephone to tend to Matthew, she said.

"About an hour later, I called back," she testified. "The house was quiet when Wes answered."

The next morning Wes Crider called for medical help. The baby was taken first to Yampa Valley Medical Center, then flown to Children's Hospital in Denver because of severe swelling in his brain.

Crider initially told authorities that his son had fallen about 12 inches off a futon couch. Later, at the Denver hospital, Crider told his wife "that Matthew would not stop crying, so he slammed him down on the futon," she testified.

Dr. Lori McBride, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Children's Hospital, testified it was unlikely Matthew's injuries were caused by "roughly" putting the infant on the futon.

McBride, who treated Matthew, testified the injuries Matthew sustained were similar to ones suffered in a "high-speed accident."

"To get that sort of injury from a futon, he would have to be slammed very hard," she said.

McBride testified that Matthew's injuries occurred at least six hours before Crider called for medical help, which was about 7 a.m.

A CAT scan done at the Steamboat hospital showed swelling in the brain, she said. The swelling was caused by a lack of oxygen, she said.

"Brain cells swell as they die," she said. Matthew's brain "went without oxygen for too long."

Matthew lost a significant number of brain cells, which has caused his brain to shrink over time, she said.

At the end of the hearing, Wes Crider addressed the court.

"I don't know how to deal with this," he said. "I will accept what you give me."

Crider also apologized to his wife, turning from Thompson and facing the public.

"I am sorry," a sobbing Crider said to Jacquelyn who was sitting in the gallery. "I did not mean to hurt your baby. I hope you know that.

"I love you, and I am committed to you. I will be 'til we get through this."

Before Crider's address to the court, numerous supporters spoke for Crider, including his brother, Kevin, and his pastor, Steven Curry.

"Wes is the most loving, compassionate, sensitive, responsible, thoughtful person I know," said Kevin Crider. "This is not the kind of person we see everyday commit this crime. Wes has always done the right thing.

"Wes is going to punish himself for the rest of his life. Don't make this tragedy worse than it already is."

Curry portrayed Crider as a "wonderful Christian man" since meeting him this past March.

"To remove Wes from society will be a great loss to society," he said. Wes "is broken. There is nothing left to break. If rehabilitation is the punishment, it is already occurring. If it is punishment, it has already been inflicted."

In the end, Thompson could not ignore what Crider did to his son.

"I still don't believe you have been honest and forthcoming of what happened that night," Thompson told Crider.

Thompson also assured Crider that he did not receive his sentence because he was a former state trooper.

"This sentence is consistent with what I would do with other people," he said.

Thompson is hopeful the sentence will also be a reminder for other parents.

"I hope the prison sentence will cause other parents to seek help, so this type of tragedy can be avoided."

Crider had been a trooper for two years. Following his Jan. 16 arrest, he was placed on administrative leave. He resigned from the post Jan. 31.

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