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Cambria Co. man gets jail time in baby death
EBENSBURG, Pa. -- There was extremely emotional testimony in Cambria County court Thursday afternoon before a judge sentenced a Beaverdale man for shaking an infant child to death last year.
The victim's family took to the stand in tears telling the judge their lives will never be the same because Patrick Burkett took away their most precious gift in life.
There were more than 20 friends and family members of the victim in court, all in tears, the defendant sobbing himself, even the judge broke down.
Prosecutors said Raegan Panick was 22 months old when she was shaken to death by Burkett, her mothers' boyfriend at the time.
"You see the beautiful pictures of her, she was only 22 months old. She was 30 pounds, just an adorable child," said Beth Bolton-Penna, assistant district attorney for Cambria County. "It's so hard for any human to sit there and not feel the sadness."
Burkett pleaded guilty to third-degree murder in September. On Thursday he received his sentence, but not before emotional testimony from the victims mother and grandmother who begged the judge for the maximum sentence.
Through tears Burkett himself admitted to the court what he did, saying, "I just lost it. It was my responsibility to take care of her and I didn't. I shook her and I hit her head on the the floor. I don't know why I did it. I'm sorry."
He then told the judge he deserved whatever sentence was handed down.
"The way he described things, I don't think was accurate or adequate and I don't think that was helpful to the family at all," said Bolton-Penna. "I think we still don't know the truth of what happened to this poor child in the final moments of her natural healthy life."
Even though the judge said Burkett hadn't shown violent tendencies in court and appeared to be sorry, he said he still couldn't understand why Burkett did what he did and sentenced him to 13-30 years in jail.
"You could see and the judge acknowledged that there was no malice, there was no evil intent and Mr. Burkett was incredibly remorseful and just very regretful over what happened," said defense attorney Patricia Moore.
"Everyone in that courtroom can relate to a small child and the beauty of their lives and the potential they have," said Bolton-Penna. "Sadly, this life was cut too short."
Panick family told 6 News they were satisfied with the sentencing, give the circumstances, but said they'll never find closure.
Burkett will remain in jail for 13-30 years without the chance for early release.