A Maryland man was sentenced to 40 years in prison Thursday for what the judge called the "mind-boggling" fatal abuse of a 2-year-old boy who was whipped with a belt, kicked, shaken, slammed against kitchen cabinets and forced to brush his teeth with a steel barbecue brush.
Raymond Matthew Brittle, a 40-year-old laborer from Thurmont, stood mute at his sentencing after defense attorney Margaret Teahan portrayed him as a dim-witted alcoholic whose bottled-up rage at his own abusive father had exploded in an uncharacteristic fit of violence.
Frederick County Circuit Judge G. Edward Dwyer didn't buy that argument. He cited statements from Brittle's own adolescent son that Brittle began beating Robert Watkins weekly after the boy moved into their home in early 2013. The frequency increased to at least once a day in the month before Robert died from devastating brain injuries on Sept. 8, 2013, the boy told police.
"This has to be one of the most horrendous, if not the most horrendous case of child abuse I've ever seen," Dwyer said. "This is just mind-boggling."
He suspended another 15 years. Brittle must serve at least half his prison sentence before he's eligible for release, followed by five years of supervised probation.
Brittle's wife, Melissa, was sentenced last week to 20 years for allowing the abuse. Both pleaded guilty last year to first-degree child abuse resulting in death, which carries a 40-year maximum penalty. Raymond Brittle also pleaded guilty to second-degree child abuse.
The boy's mother, who considered Brittle her stepfather, had put the child in Brittle's care. That woman's stepmother, Jennifer Ann Ward, tearfully begged the court for the maximum sentence. Then, addressing the 6-foot-1, 260-pound Brittle, who also appeared to be crying, she said, "I pray in prison there is a bully bigger and badder than you."
State's Attorney J. Charles Smith said the final beating, delivered in the kitchen with the couple's other children watching, was meant to punish the boy for refusing to eat.