Dad’s shocking act after killing baby son
A dad who killed his seven-week-old son because he "wouldn't stop crying" then proceeded to play PlayStation will spend a minimum of six years and eight months in prison.
Joseph McDonald was sentenced in the Supreme Court of Victoria on Tuesday to nine years' prison with six years and eight months' non-parole, having already served 410 days.
He had pleaded guilty to child homicide, after causing baby Lucas McDonald's death on October 24, 2019, in Benalla.
After the death, the child's mother walked into the room to find McDonald rocking Lucas and playing PlayStation as if nothing had happened.
"Lucas was in his rocker and the offender was using his foot to rock him while the offender played PlayStation," the court heard.
Lucas's loving mother had no way of knowing the dad had just inflicted "catastrophic" brain injuries on the baby boy, which he would not recover from.
McDonald played video games for six to 10 hours every day.
Judge Stephen Kaye said the 23-year-old was addicted to cannabis and video games.
He said McDonald became "irate" when he lost or was interrupted by other tasks such as "family responsibilities".
McDonald's anger management issues were "exacerbated" by his gaming and cannabis use, Justice Kaye said.
The homicide was a "burst of anger inflamed by your indulgence in those two addictions", he said.
On the day of the killing, the family had gone to the doctor for routine vaccinations where Lucas was found to be in good health except for a runny nose.
When they got home Lucas's mother, Samantha Duckmanton, put on the TV for elder child Oliver and then went into the kitchen by herself.
While in the kitchen Ms Duckmanton heard the baby cry out.
"It was unlike any noise she had previously heard Lucas make," Justice Kaye said.
McDonald told the mother, "I'm just swaddling him."
But prosecutors alleged what really happened was McDonald violently shook the baby and inflicted catastrophic injuries to his brain, either by hitting him or hitting his head against a hard object.
He died in hospital five days later at 53 days old.
After hearing the strange cry, Ms Duckmanton went into the lounge room to see McDonald rocking the baby while simultaneously playing PlayStation.
At first Lucas' only symptoms were resisting eating from the bottle and grizzling.
He looked at his mother with "dazed" eyes.
That afternoon she called two health services and followed advice to give him painkillers, but when he continued behaving strangely the next day she took him to hospital.
The Benalla Health Emergency Department identified him as being "critically ill" and transferred him to the Monash Children's Hospital, where the best efforts of health workers couldn't save him.
After Lucas' death, staff informed the parents they believed the death was "non-accidental".
It was then that McDonald made a confession to Ms Duckmanton, Judge Kaye said.
He told Ms Duckmanton he "became frustrated" when Lucas "wouldn't stop crying" and he "pushed on his brain stem".
After the admission McDonald ran from the hospital and hid out in a horse shed, before turning himself into police later that week.
Hospital examinations and an autopsy uncovered multiple haemorrhages in several areas of the baby's brain along with a 4cm-by-1.8cm bruise on his skull.
"I am satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that you either struck his head or you caused Lucas' head to forcefully strike a hard object," Justice Kaye said.
He said McDonald had a "stable and happy childhood" and came from a "good family" in Benalla in northeast Victoria.
He said he was "challenged" by the birth of the family's second son, and his anger management problems deteriorated after Lucas was born.
"(They were) assaults committed by you to vent your anger and frustration," Justice Kaye said.
"He deserved to be treated with the tenderness, love and care that every baby should receive.
"Instead, by your actions, you took his life from him."
He said causing a baby's death "contravened the fundamental values of our society".
"(He was) totally vulnerable and dependent on you for his safety and wellbeing," he said.
"You deprived him of his most basic right - his right to life."*For 24-hour domestic violence support call the national hotline 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or MensLine on 1800 600 636.
Originally published as Dad's shocking act after killing baby son