January 13, 2011
ROCK HILL, S.C. -- Owen Carduff, 16 months, will likely never walk or talk. He suffered severe brain damage when his 18-year-old father, Michael, shook him last January. On Thursday, Carduff pleaded guilty to unlawful conduct toward a child and inflicting great bodily injury on a child. Carduff was home with his son on Jan. 12 last year when the baby boy would not stop crying. That night he shook the baby, who was then 4 months old. He didn't tell the boy's mother what he'd done, worried she'd be angry with him. Hours later, he and the boy's mother took Owen to Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill when they noticed he was having seizures. After an examination, doctors found bleeding on the baby's brain, which is a common sign of shaken baby syndrome. At first, Carduff denied doing anything wrong, but then he made a second statement, telling police he accidentally dropped the baby on concrete steps while trying to carry his car seat. After failing a lie detector test, Carduff admitted he had become frustrated at the crying infant and shook him. Doctors also found bruises on the infant's body. Carduff, now 19, has been in jail for exactly a year since his arrest. On Thursday, a judge sentenced him to eight years in prison, out of a maximum sentence of 25 years had he gone to trial. The baby's mother and grandmother both spoke out in court. Both said Carduff was not a bad person, but they wanted to see him punished for a horrible choice. "This was not a puppy that he kicked around, he's a human baby boy," said the baby's grandmother, Charlotte Williams. "He had a choice to walk away, put him down, get help, get a family member. This was not an acceptable choice." Owen's grandfather, Larry Williams, said he wanted a longer sentence but understood the judge's decision. "If Owen would've died it would've been a lot stiffer sentence, but his quality of life did die," he said. A month before the Jan. 12, 2010, incident, in December 2009, Owen was in the hospital for a similar injury. At that time, sheriff's deputies were not contacted. It's not clear why, and when Eyewitness News asked the Williams family if they were pursuing legal action about the earlier hospitalization, they said merely, “No comment." Owen has therapy at Levine Children's Hospital three days a week. He lives with the Williams, his maternal grandparents. They know the doctors don't have a positive outlook that Owen will ever truly recover. Yet, that's what they hope and pray for every day. "He's a miracle already that he's even alive, so we're just praying that God will increase his abilities," Larry Williams said.