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Christopher Foster gets 20 years and 42 days in beating death of 42-day-old son

Christopher Foster, 32, was convicted of first-degree manslaughter

Christopher Foster, 32, was convicted of first-degree manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child. Credit: SCPD

A Kings Park man convicted of manslaughter in the death of his infant son was sentenced Friday to 20 years and 42 days in prison.

Christopher Foster's son, Jonathan Hertzler, was 42 days old on Oct. 11, 2011, the day he died. The child suffered a fractured skull and several other broken bones.

Prosecutors argued that Foster caused the injuries, and he was slow to act or call 911 when the child turned blue and stopped breathing. The baby's grandmother called 911 more than hour after Foster called his boss to tell him something was wrong with the boy.

"This defendant ended a vulnerable baby's life, a helpless victim," Assistant Suffolk County District Attorney Dana Brown told state Supreme Court Justice William J. Condon Friday in a Riverhead courtroom before asking for the maximum sentence.

Foster, 32, faced a maximum of 25 years in prison after a jury convicted him in July of first-degree manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child. Foster was found not guilty of second-degree murder.

Condon said he decided not to sentence Foster to a 25-year term because he didn't have a criminal record. "This act . . . was an aberration but it was violent act, nonetheless," he said.

Condon said the 42-day sentence represented the "amount of time that Jonathan Hertzler was on this earth."

Prosecutors contended that Foster never wanted the child and was stoic when police responded to the frantic 911 call. The child's mother could be heard crying in the background during the call that was played for jurors.

Brown said Jonathan was healthy, happy and didn't have injuries for the first three weeks of his life, until Foster came into his life.

Foster picked up the baby at 3:30 a.m. because he was fussy and claimed he put him back down, and found him in the same position two hours later, Brown said. Foster then called his boss, who urged him to call 911. But Foster didn't do so or wake anyone else in the house, Brown said.

In court, Foster said: "I mourn the loss of my son every day . . . I did not have anything to do with his death."

The defense had argued there was no evidence that Foster caused the injuries and the baby's grandmother, a schizophrenic who lived with the family in Ronkonkoma, may have caused the infant's death.

Investigators ruled out the grandmother as a suspect early in the probe, prosecutors said.

In court, defense attorney David Besso of Bay Shore said Foster wasn't capable of the crime. "He's a kind, gentle person," Besso said.

Adrienne Scarcella, a family friend living in Coram known as "Nana," declined to speak in court, though she had urged prosecutors to "ask the court for justice for Jonathan," Brown said. After court, Scarcella said: "There was justice for Jonathan."

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