Danielle Flannery, 23, was sentenced Thursday in Erie County Common Pleas Court to 11 years in prison, on a single count of permitting child abuse. She pleaded guilty to the charge in December.
Flannery’s son, Owen Barker, died July 30, 2012, while in the care of her then-boyfriend Michael Milner, 25, at their Fulton Street apartment. Police believe Milner delivered a fatal blow to Owen’s chest while Flannery was at work.
Even though Flannery was not in the house at the time, Judge Roger Binette and Erie County prosecutor Kevin Baxter believeshe was more culpable than she let on. Binette delivered the maximum possible sentence on the first-degree felony, despite testimony from Flannery’s parents. “She was duped by a monster,” said Michelle Daly, Flannery’s mother, during Thursday’s sentencing.
Owen’s father, Kyle Barker, also delivered a statement, as did his mother, Hope Barker, and sister, Kassandra Barker.
“I wish you would’ve let me have him that weekend,” Kyle said.
His mother Hope had a similar sentiment. She spoke of Flannery and her son’s relationship, and how they’d cared for her like family when the pair were still dating.
“That little boy … screaming to be saved and no one saved him,” Hope said. “We would’ve gladly taken him”
“Your selfishness destroyed many lives,” Kassandra Barker told Flannery.
The crux of the case against Flannery centered around her knowledge of ongoing abuse Owen allegedly suffered at Milner’s hands.
Jack Bradley, Flannery’s attorney, asked the judge to consider Flannery’s ignorance of the severity of Milner’s actions.
Flannery took the child to doctors to figure out why Owen was bruising so easily, Bradley said, adding that she was also manipulated by Milner, accepting his lies about Owen’s recurring injuries.
But Flannery, Binette contended, kept Owen under the same roof as Milner, even though she was well aware of the abuse.
Flannery then addressed the court.
“I lost my whole entire world in the blink of an eye,” she said. “I’ll never be able to make it right. I was not a bad person. I did not sacrifice my son for anyone”
Binette said Flannery lied to investigators and she knew of two children’s services cases regarding the abuse, and she also promised not to let Milner be alone with the child.
“She had the opportunity to purge the lies,” Binette said. “She didn’t”
A coroner determined Owen suffered a perforated heart and lacerations to his artery and liver.
“He was literally beaten to death” Binette said.
During the sentencing, prosecutors displayed autopsy photos of Owen’s bruised and broken body, bringing the Barkers, Flannery and other family members to tears.
Bradley protested to the display, but Binette overruled.
Also mentioned were Flannery’s letters to Milner while both were in jail following Owen’s death. Flannery signed someone else’s name to the letters and snuck them to Milner in jail.
“I do love you, I do believe in you,” she wrote. “I miss you terribly and again, I’m sorry”
Said Binette to Flannery: “You are not as truthful, not as innocent as your counsel and family want this court to believe”
After the sentence was handed down, deputies cuffed Flannery and led her from the courtroom. She spent Thursday night in the Erie County jail, and from there she’ll be sent to a state facility to serve her time.
Milner’s next hearing is scheduled for today. He’ll appear by camera prior to an evidentiary hearing in his case, according to court documents.