Convicted child killer Dustin Wedel will likely spend the rest of his life in prison for inflicting continuous abuse that ultimately led to what prosecutors said was an "excruciating" death for 3-year-old James Lee Fanshier.
An emotional Wedel accepted a tissue from the bailiff of Department 9 in Kern County Superior Court Friday as Judge Kenneth C. Twisselman II imposed a sentence of 31 years to life in prison. Wedel made no comment, and nodded at family members as he was escorted from the courtroom following sentencing.
Wedel's mother, Donna Castilleja, said afterward her son had nothing to do with James' death. She said he loved James, and the real killer was still free.
Castilleja said jurors had their minds made up before the trial ended. She said she caught several jurors reading about the case in The Californian.
She said her son would appeal his conviction. With the sentence he's serving, she said it's almost like she's lost him forever.
"To me it's like he died, but is still living," Castilleja said.
Wedel was convicted of inflicting injuries upon James from November 2010 up to the boy's death on Jan. 23, 2011. James suffered broken ribs, a broken arm, injuries to his pancreas, bowels and genitals, and bruising over much of his body.
Wedel came into contact with James through Stormy Roberts -- the woman who'd been caring for James since ending a relationship with the boy's biological father.
Prosecutor Andrea Kohler said Wedel was jealous of the attention Roberts showered on James, and didn't want the child in his life.
Kohler said Wedel showed no concern when detectives told him James had died. But he got angry, she said, because he had two active misdemeanor warrants and knew he faced arrest.
She said Wedel was the only person with James when the boy's most severe injuries occurred, including a torn section of small intestine probably caused by a kick or a punch.
"I believe when you do something like that to a small child you deserve to go to prison for the rest of your life," Kohler said.