Ely man sentenced for baby’s death

Courtesy photo/Kaylynn Roberts-McMurry
Michael Curtis, defense Attorney Mr. Smith and District Attorney Michael Wheable (detective Swetich in the background)

Michael Curtis was sentenced Monday afternoon to life in prison for the second degree murder charge of his 3-month-old son. Curtis sat in the chair next to his attorney, staring at the judge with a blank stare. He will be eligible for parole in 10 years.

Curtis has been in custody since he was taken into custody in December 2015. On the morning of Nov. 25, 2014, Curtis reported to his girlfriend Jennifer Souvannafing that something was wrong with the baby.  The mother told Curtis to take baby Eivan to the emergency room and she would meet him there.

Eivan was med flighted immediately to the University of Utah due to his excessive injuries.  Eivan had to be intubated but medical care was withdrawn from Eivan on Nov. 30, and the child succumbed to his injuries and passed away on Dec. 14.

Curtis was taken into custody immediately in Utah and was extradited back to White PIne County where he has remained in the White Pine County Jail since.

District Attorney Michael Wheable mentioned the mother of the deceased elected to not be present. Wheable reported she is doing the best she can to receive counseling and to move on with her life.

This case was first originally filed as a first degree murder case with a theory of a child who dies because of child abuse, and under Nevada law it can be a first degree charge. However the state took into account that Curtis had no criminal history, no substance abuse issues, full-time employment and what otherwise appeared to be a healthy family.

It was noted in court that during the process in the case the state was contacted by Dr. Antoinette Laskey, who is one of the leading physicians in the nation for closed head trauma abuse deaths.

She reached out to the detective in the case and wanted to explore a reduced charge in exchange for an interview with Curtis.  She wanted to afford the opportunity to record and document the scientific manner of the context that led up to this incident. This was really important to her and the scientific community.

Wheable said, “there seems to be a theory that you can’t kill a child by shaking it or by causing it’s head to be in a sudden acceleration with a sudden stop.”

This information and evidence was critical to the medical field, but more importantly it would have been critical in a public campaign to educate the community  to the dire tragic consequences of losing ones patience or otherwise causing and inflicting this kind of trauma to a child maybe without the intent to ultimately murder the child.

Upon being contacted by Laskey, it was thought that maybe the state could gain information that could help save another child’s life, another Ivan down the road.  So the state entered this agreement that Curtis interview but unfortunately he denied this agreement.

Wheable said, “I need to start with some of the medical findings, how this child presented at the UofU.”

Wheable read from one of the medical reports from the UofU that indicated the 3.5 month old infant was presented with sub-dural hemorrhage, fractured ribs, bruising about the lower extremities and abdomen.

The injuries were noted in the report to be consistent with inflicted trauma, e.g. child abuse.  The rib fractures were at least 10-14 days old based on the presence of callused formation, which meant he had been subjected to more than one abusive event. The report went on to include that bruises in an infant at this age are consistent with inflicted trauma.  The rib fractures were consistent with being squeezed about the torso.  The bruises on the abdomen and liver injury could also be consistent with the squeeze.  The final summary of the report indicated that a worsening of his neuro status, required intabation and EEG monitoring.  Seven ribs fractured on the left and five on the right.

On or about the morning of Nov. 25, 2014, Ivan’s mother left for work about 7:30 a.m. and she reported to the detectives that she felt that she needed to take a picture of her children before she left for work that morning. The picture was included as an exhibit. The mother took those pictures and that is the last memory she has of that child.

“We have some reports that the child was crying uncontrollably, couldn’t be soothed, defense submissions  that Mr. Curtis swaddled the child and placed the child in the crib so hard that his head may have bounced once or more…that is not enough to support the full extent mechanism of these injuries, something way more violent occurred to this child that morning.” Wheable said.

Wheable said, “A life prison sentence is not going to be the worst punishment, losing your own son at your hands, murdering your son with your hands and having that memory for the rest of your life and I have no doubt believe that Mr. Curtis thinks about it on a daily basis and carry that with him for the rest of his life, there’s no greater punishment. If there were a punishment under the laws in the state of Nevada Life in prison would be most appropriate.”  LIfe sentence is the only appropriate sentence in this case was what Wheable argued for before the court.”

Judge Fairman spoke by saying “Mr. Curtis the common threat here is the one word tragedy.  It’s so hard to fathom as to what occurred.  The death is very serious. Ivan at 3 1/2 months didn’t have much of a life.  You have taken responsibility to a serious charge, but with that being said, there’s not much of a straight up acknowledgement of the violence that took place and that’s your call as far as your willingness to talk about it. You may be very remorseful for what has happened and I hope so for your sake.  It will make it easier for you to live with yourself in the future.”

Fairman went on to tell Curtis, “Until you acknowledge your true role in Ivan’s death there will never be complete remorse. I hope some day that it gets to you and that your able to digest that. Ivan was denied not only on his life by you but he was denied a lifetime of lives. Our children are the most precious human beings, and an infant is clearly the most vulnerable, helpless of all human kind totally dependent on everyone around them for their care and they survive because of all of us. Ivan wasn’t shown much mercy in his brief period of life, not much at all, he was a defenseless victim.”

Fairman sentenced Curtis to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after 10 years of service. “Looking at Ivan at the worse thing that happened to him is that he lived for 20 days after November 25th , his death lingered, and he lingered that way.  Clearly Ivan is not going to be do all of those things as a young boy growing up and he never saw it coming, he didn’t have that opportunity of lifetime of lifetimes as you did,” Fairman said.

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