Ray gets 30 years in shaken baby death
Joseph Eugene Ray, 38, Corydon, yesterday was sentenced to 30 years in the penitentiary for the ‘shaken baby’ death of two-year-old Blake Allen Barger, his wife’s nephew, in January 2002.
‘A child is dead. A mother has lost her child. Grandparents have lost their grandchild. The defendant’s wife and children will be without the defendant while he is in prison,’ Harrison Superior Court Judge Roger D. Davis said from the bench.
‘The victim’s family has requested the maximum sentence; the defendant’s family and friends have requested the minimum sentence. A minimum sentence would depreciate the seriousness of this crime,’ the judge said, reading from his written sentencing order. ‘However, the trial court is not considering reducing the sentence to one that is less than the presumptive sentence.’
Barger died on Jan. 17, following a 9-1-1 emergency trip the day before to Harrison County Hospital, where he was flown to Kosair Children’s Hospital in Louisville.
An autopsy blamed the death on ‘shaken baby syndrome,’ and Ray, who had cared for the child, his wife’s nephew, just prior to the trip to the hospital, was blamed. And as the child’s only caregiver at the time, Ray at first accepted the responsibility for the death.
Ray and his wife, Stacy, often cared for the children of others. On the morning Blake was taken to the hospital, his mother, Michelle Loney, had dropped Blake off at the Rays’ residence in Corydon about 8:15. Stacy left the house, and later Ray said he noticed Blake was acting unusual and he called for help.
For the friends and family who had not heard the testimony at trial, the judge reiterated the defendant’s self-incriminating statements, including: ‘I was the only one with him,’ Ray said. ‘Whatever happened to him, I caused it.’
The judge also pointed out the testimony of 10 doctors who testified regarding Blake’s condition and ultimate death.
The judge stressed that in Indiana a person must be held accountable for a crime, which means paying the consequence. ‘These consequences are correctional and rehabilitative treatment that can best be provided by commitment to a penal facility,’ Davis said.
Thirty years is the presumptive sentence for battery, a Class A Felony, and the judge sent Ray to the Indiana Dept. of Corrections for that amount of time. With time off for good behavior, and the 253 days Ray has already served in the Harrison County Jail, he could be eligible for release in slightly more than 14 years.
There was no outburst from Ray’s family and friends when the sentence was handed down by the judge. There were tears on both sides of the aisle.
The judge had cautioned against any emotional outbreak in the courtroom.
Ray will appeal, but cannot afford an attorney. The judge appointed attorney Matthew J. McGovern of Evansville to represent Ray. McGovern also was in the courtroom for the sentencing and met afterwards with Ray.
Many on both sides of the tragedy took the stand and either pleaded for leniency or urged the maximum sentence of 50 years. Ray’s wife, Stacy, said to Blake’s family from the witness stand in a clear, commanding voice, ‘You’re not the only one to miss Blake; you’re not the only ones who spent time with Blake …’
At that, Blake’s mother, Stacy’s sister, left the room in tears. Later, she said: ‘I just lose, lose, lose.’
The family has been split apart by Blake’s death, especially the two sisters, Stacy and Michelle.
Stacy said she will continue to deal with their (four) children’s grief over their missing father. ‘I know the kind of person Joe is; I know the truth. I am so angry there’s no way you could possibly understand.’
She said it is impossible for her husband’s personality to so abruptly change within the 40 minutes he was alone with Blake that he could violently shake the baby to death.
‘I will never, ever, ever never step down from his side.’