Rogersville man sentenced to 20 years for shaking baby

Jeff Bobo • Oct 16, 2008 at 12:00 AM

ROGERSVILLE — The Hawkins County man convicted Tuesday of two counts of aggravated child abuse following a daylong trial was sentenced to 20 years in prison Thursday by Circuit Judge John Dugger.

Richard Trehern, 24, formerly of 102 Bowlin Lane, Rogersville, was originally charged with three counts of aggravated child abuse in connection with severe brain and skull injuries that his 4-month-old daughter Alexandria was diagnosed with in April 2007.

Doctors testified during Tuesday’s trial that the injuries were consistent with “shaken baby syndrome” and that they occurred on two separate occasions.

The jury found Trehern guilty on two counts, and although the prison sentence was left up to the judge during Thursday’s hearing, the jury fined Trehern $50,000 for each count — a total of $100,000.

Aggravated child abuse is a Class A felony punishable by 15 to 25 years in prison. Attorney General Berkeley Bell didn’t recommend a number of years for Trehern’s sentence, but he did ask that both counts be sentenced consecutively.

Bell offered two factors as to why he believed Trehern’s sentence should be enhanced.

One factor was the severity of the injuries. Although the child — now in the custody of her maternal grandparents — appears to be doing well and developing normally, Bell noted that the injuries could have been fatal and the risk to the child’s life was high.

Those injuries included subdural hematoma, a form of traumatic brain injury in which blood collects between the dura (the outer protective covering of the brain) and the arachnoid — the middle layer of the system of membranes that envelop the brain. The child was also diagnosed with a skull fracture and retinal bleeding.

The other factor noted by Bell was the fact that Trehern, as the child’s father, abused the position of private trust. Bell argued that the role of the father is to protect and take care of a child, and Trehern’s actions toward his baby merited an enhanced sentence.

Defense attorney Russell Maddox said the main mitigating factor in Trehern’s favor was his lack of a previous criminal record.

In the end, Dugger ruled that the sentences will run concurrently but that Trehern must serve 100 percent of the sentence.

In a statement to investigators last year the child’s mother, Michelle Trehern, was quoted as saying she witnessed her husband violently shake the baby prior to the child being taken to the emergency room. Michelle Trehern was also quoted in her statement that Richard Trehern often became angry when the baby cried and would call the child “bitch” when he was trying to get her to stop crying.

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