Ex-soldier avoids prison for son's death
SMITHFIELD, N.C. - An Iraq war veteran who pleaded no contest to involuntary manslaughter in the death of his 2-year-old son was ordered to pay for the funeral but spared from prison.
Prosecutors had sought the maximum sentence of almost two years in prison for William C. Ullom, but Judge William C. Gore Jr. said Thursday that too much time had passed since little Christian Norris was violently shaken in 2002.
"Some people will look at your defendant as a baby killer; others will say he is the authentic American hero," the judge said. "At this point, this far removed from the actual act ... it appears to not be in the interest of justice to put him in prison."
The boy was left blind by the shaking, and he never walked or talked again before dying in December 2004, a few weeks before he turned 3.
Ullom, 25, pleaded no contest in March 2004 as part of a deal with prosecutors. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter after the boy died. He has never said in court that he shook his son.
After Ullom entered the no-contest plea Thursday, Gore ordered him to reimburse the boy's grandmother $1,000 for funeral costs and added a year to the two years of probation he was already serving for his earlier plea.
Christian's grandmother, Linda Norris, noted that Ullom was not sentenced to prison in 2004 and said she expected nothing different this time.
"All he got was a slap on the wrist," Norris told the judge. "But him going to prison is not going to bring my baby back."
Ullom spent much of 2004 with the 82nd Airborne Division in Iraq and was discharged last summer.
Military officials have acknowledged that Ullom should have been discharged after the abuse conviction. Federal law and military policy ban soldiers convicted of domestic violence - including child abuse - from being sent overseas because they are barred from carrying a gun.
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