Jasper County jury sentences man to 8 years for killing baby

Jasper County jury sentences man to 8 years for killing baby
Source: KTRE staff
Source: KTRE staff
Source: KTRE staff
Source: KTRE staff
Source: KTRE staff
Source: KTRE staff
Justin Havard (Source: Jasper County Jail)
Justin Havard (Source: Jasper County Jail)

JASPER, TX (KTRE) - A Jasper County jury has sentenced a Newton man to eight years in prison for the death of a three-month-old baby in November of 2013.

The jury did not levy a fine against Justin Dewayne Havard, 26.

Havard will also get credit for time served for the three years that he was in jail with the possibility of probation, making him eligible for parole in a little over a year.

Rylan's mother Samantha McDaniel was heartbroken over the jury sentence.

"We had great news of guilty of murdering my son Rylan, but today it was just injustice and wrong. It was like they spit on us and they didn't value an innocent babies life." McDaniel said.

Defense attorney Ryan Gertz said the outcome wasn't ideal but that he was relieved the sentence was on the lower end of the scale for his client.

"Today I think the jury exercised some of the doubts that they may have had left over from yesterday and made the decision to give him essentially the minimum or pretty close to the minimum that they could give him of eight years." Gertz said.

The jury found Havard guilty of the first-degree murder charge for the death of Rylan McDaniel, who was the child of Havard's girlfriend.

Havard was arrested on a felony injury to a child charge in November of 2013. Havard had called 911 and told the dispatcher that 3-month-old Rylan was choking. Havard was babysitting his girlfriend's two children, Rylan and a 4-year-old girl.

When Jasper PD officers questioned Havard at the hospital, his story allegedly didn't match the child's injuries.

A medical examination showed the child had suffered blunt force trauma to the head.

The hearing began Friday with the state calling witnesses to the stand.

Rylan's grandmother, Georgia McDaniel, was visibly upset in talking about how Havard posted pictures of him and Rylan on Facebook in August and October, giving the illusion he cared for the baby.

Gertz said it was impossible for Havard to take down photos since he was in the Jasper County Jail.

Samantha McDaniel, talked about how Rylan's death affected her.

"It tore me apart," she said.

Gertz then called members of Havard's family to the stand.

"He was a good kid, and he worked hard," his father, Michael Havard, said. "He loved him, and he felt like he wanted to be his daddy."

Havard was visibly upset while his father spoke.

Havard's cousin, Janell Haynes described Havard as a "spunky little kid."

"It's been extremely difficult to see someone you love through Plexiglass," she said.

Havard's little sister, Lindsay Stark, took the stand next.

"Justin has a kind heart," she said. "He would never intentionally hurt somebody."

Havard's mother, Linda Gilchrise, was the last witness for the defense.

"I know he loved that baby," she said. "We all loved that baby. He's not a monster. He's really not a monster."

During final arguments, Gertz said they were disappointed in the verdict, but that they respect it. He stressed that certain circumstances warrant a certain outcome, and they hope for something on the lower end of the punishment range.

"Justin loved that kid," Gertz said. "This isn't the kind of case where vengeance is appropriate. The other option is mercy. You can recognize this as a tragedy."

Prosecutor Steve Hollis said the evidence speaks for itself and then spoke of all the things the family would never be able to see Rylan grow up to do and achieve. Rylan's family members cried as Hollis spoke.

"He took all of that away," Hollis said.

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