EL DORADO, Kansas – A man was sentenced to 128 months in prison Thursday for the death of 18-month-old Jayla Haag.
In January, Justin Edwards pleaded no contest and was found guilty of child abuse, aggravated battery, and involuntary manslaughter.
“It is difficult to comprehend what type of monster would murder a helpless beautiful baby girl. Our family is stricken with grief at the thought of what type of pain our little Jayla had to endure,” said Jayla’s Grandmother Wendy in a statement to the court on Thursday morning.
Jayla’s family members said their family is forever broken after losing the little girl to abuse. Edwards’ family said he made mistakes, but insisted he wasn’t a murderer.
“I’ve known him,” said Edwards’ mother, “he has always been a sweet and loving man.”
“I still love Jayla just as much today as the day she was born. When she died a part of me died,” Edwards said when he had the chance to speak. “I accept responsibility for not being in the right place at the right time.”
Both the prosecution and defense recommended a 114 month sentence for Edwards, but Judge David Ricke made it clear the punishment should fit the crime.
“You battered and abused this child to death and quite frankly Mr. Edwards I don’t see any mitigation in that,” said Judge Ricke. “She never got a chance to have the joy of life or to give it because you killed her.”
Edwards received the maximum sentencing for the three charges, 128 months in prison.
Edwards’ family visibly disagreed, while Jayla’s breathed a sigh of relief. Family members told KSN they felt justice has been served with the maximum sentencing and they’re relieved to have the three year long process over with, but they said nothing can bring Jayla back.
Haag was severely abused and died from her injuries in March of 2012. Prosecutors say the girl suffered serious abuse at an El Dorado duplex that was a meth house. She died after being brought to the hospital with injuries that included a fractured jaw, severe head injuries and having her teeth forcibly removed. She also was malnourished and tested positive for methamphetamine.
Alyssa Haag entered a guilty plea to involuntary manslaughter in 2013 in connection with Jayla’s death, and is currently in prison for the crime. Her earliest possible release date is in March 2015, according to state prison records.
Judge Ricke granted 352 days credit for jail time served — 203 days served awaiting sentencing and 149 days for previous jail time.