The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

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April 12, 2014

Man gets prison term for assaults on baby, man

HERMITAGE — There’s a lot Sheila Gardner hasn’t known about her son and she’s not proud of some of what she has learned.

But Christopher J. Gardner III has good qualities, if only he can learn to control the destructive ones, she said.

Mrs. Gardner made an impassioned plea for mercy for her son at his sentencing Friday on two counts of aggravated assault.

Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Thomas R. Dobson responded with a sentence of 5 to 18 years in prison.

Gardner, 24 of 1445 Parke Drive, Hermitage, formerly of Sharon, admitted shaking his 9-week-old son so hard that the boy suffered skull fractures and other injuries. The incident occurred in Sharon and was prosecuted by a Mercer County detective.

In an unrelated case, he also acknowledged beating a man with a metal baseball bat in the head and arm in Greenville, a case filed by Greenville-West Salem Township police.

Mrs. Gardner said her son’s anger issues surfaced when she and his father divorced. He started by throwing things around, but that behavior has seemed to ebb, she said.

“As he got older, he started internalizing his anger,” she said.

It was only later that she learned he had become “physical with women,” she said.

Speaking of the incident involving her grandson, she said, “I don’t know what happened on that fateful, terrible night, but I know I love my son.”

Mrs. Gardner asked Dobson to use wisdom and mercy, and to assure that Gardner receives anger management counseling and the opportunity to get an education while in prison.

Gardner apologized for his actions and took responsibility. He said he wants to better himself and noted he had attended drug and alcohol classes in jail.

“I’ve done good things for the community,” he said. “I’m not just some bad guy.”

Dobson gave Gardner credit for 203 days. Dobson’s statement to Gardner prior to imposing sentence could not be heard by many in the public seating area of the courtroom.

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