Ogden sentenced to 38 years for killing his infant daughter in Parachute | PostIndependent.com

Ogden sentenced to 38 years for killing his infant daughter in Parachute

Matthew Ogden, center, awaits sentencing Friday in Garfield County District Court.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

Matthew Ogden was sentenced Friday to 38 years in prison for killing his infant daughter in June 2015 in his Parachute apartment.

Initially charged with first-degree murder, 31-year-old Ogden pleaded guilty to reckless child abuse resulting in death. That’s a class 2 felony with a plea deal stipulation for sentencing to prison for 30 to 40 years. Under the original first-degree murder charge, Ogden faced life in prison.

The prosecution and defense Friday argued for the maximum and minimum, respectively, of that range.

Judge John Neiley, deciding to go toward the upper end of the range, said he found it distressing that the defendant, the sole possessor of the truth of what happened that night, was still unwilling to take responsibility.

“This was not an accident,” Neiley said, rejecting defense contentions.

Ogden was arrested in the death of his daughter, Sarah, after his wife, Phyllis Wyatt, told investigators that she awoke either late June 19 or early June 20, 2015, to see her husband holding their newborn by the waist, yelling and shaking her violently, according to police. He took her into the next room, she said, where she continued to hear shouting, pounding and thumping.

Emergency workers arriving at the couple’s Parachute apartment the next morning could not revive the infant.

Emergency responders administered CPR for well over an hour, Deputy District Attorney Matt Barrett said Friday. So long that “they had to take turns pumping on her tiny little chest.”

Causes of death were later found to be a fractured skull, hemorrhaging to Sarah’s brain and a lacerated liver.

All the while Ogden sat by and never said a word about the cause of her injuries, said Barrett. After she was pronounced dead, Ogden wanted her cremated immediately, he said.

After sentencing Barrett said this case was full of “shifting sands” of Ogden’s changing stories of what happened to Sarah.

“Why does a man who took a four-week-old’s life, and who still denies it, deserve anything less than the maximum sentence under the terms of this arrangement?” Barrett asked the judge.

Montrose Public Defender Kori Zapletal argued Friday against claims that Ogden had shaken Sarah.

A forensic pathologist enlisted by the defense said that the physical evidence pointed to accidental injuries; the physical evidence did not indicate the injuries the prosecution has relied upon, said Zapletal.

And the laceration of her liver, while there must have been some level of injury prior, would have been exacerbated by CPR efforts, she said.

Zapletal pointed to the lack of neck trauma, retinal hemorrhaging or other injuries commonly seen in shaken babies. She also said that Ogden’s wife, Wyatt, later changed her statements about seeing Ogden shake the child and hearing pounding noises.

Barrett disputed defense assertions, saying the prosecution had two of its own doctors who found the opposite. He and District Attorney Jeff Cheney also believe Wyatt changed her statements to avoid losing parental rights, not to help Ogden’s case.

The defense ultimately argued that the incident leading to Sarah’s injuries was an accident, though one that was apparently reckless enough to warrant Ogden’s guilty plea. The defense said during sentencing that Sarah’s head injury came about when Ogden was carrying her out of the bedroom and banged her head on a doorjamb.

Judge Neiley said he had reviewed hours of police interrogations and interviews, had watched and heard and read how Ogden’s story had frequently changed – what he called “a litany of excuses for what happened.”

“It was just, frankly, unbelievable,” said Neiley.

And that string of changing stories continues today, said the judge.

With that in mind, the judge said he was inclined to sentence Ogden to the maximum under the plea deal. But the judge noted some mitigating factors, including legitimate mental health issues.

The defense and Ogden’s family said Friday that he had been diagnosed with several conditions, including bipolar and schizoaffective disorders.

At the same time the judge did not believe this was a purposeful killing.

This is among the most grave and serious crimes that the court encounters, said Neiley. “As a society, we cannot tolerate these types of crimes.”

And the judge said he wanted to make clear to people with children that they will be punished severely for such behavior.

“I don’t know how we get justice for victims in a case like this,” said Neiley.

Heather Beattie, the attorney who’s been handling Sarah’s twin brother’s case, said the boy has been placed with a family for about 18 months now. Fighting back tears, she lamented that he has been deprived of ever knowing his sister and that the community has been deprived of knowing what Sarah would have become.

Cheney later said the sentence was two years less than he’d desired, but said he respects Neiley’s thoughtful handling of the sentencing.

Barrett and Cheney said they would have liked to have seen more remorse from Ogden at the hearing.

Former District Attorney Sherry Caloia, in discussing the plea deal in December, called it a fair and harsh deal for Ogden, one that takes into account the infant’s death but that also takes into account that Ogden didn’t intend the result.

Caloia lost her re-election bid in November but said that result did not play into the plea deal. The plea deal was in the works and accepted before the election, she said.

Cheney said Friday that it was difficult to say whether he would have offered Ogden the same plea deal, as he hadn’t been with the case every step of the way.

“I’m hopeful that the community sees the deterrence value to this sentence,” said the DA. “And if anyone knows someone who is an abuser of a child, that they take action.”

Ogden and Wyatt fled Colorado shortly after being interviewed by police. Sarah had a twin brother who was not injured in the incident and was taken from the couple, who were arrested in northern Minnesota and brought back to Colorado to face charges.

Wyatt pleaded guilty to criminally negligent child abuse resulting in death and was sentenced in February to eight years in prison.

During court proceedings, investigators said the couple had moved to Colorado from California because they feared losing custody of the newborns over their marijuana use, she said.

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