|Page (1) of 1 - 09/02/11||email article||print page|
Idaho man sentenced to life in prison in death of boy found in canal with rocks in pockets
BOISE, Idaho (AP) ' A man was sentenced Friday to life in prison for killing his girlfriend's 8-year-old son, then stuffing rocks in the boy's pants pockets and dumping his body in an irrigation canal.
As 4th District Judge Darla Williamson handed down Daniel Ehrlick's sentence on a first-degree murder conviction, she said she could not force him to endure the same pain he inflicted on Robert Manwill, such as dropping his knees on the boy's chest, because it would be cruel. But Erhlick had committed cruel acts on Robert in the privacy of his home, she said.
"Robert died all alone in substantial pain with no one there to care for him and love him," Williamson said.
Ehrlick, 38, was convicted in June and will not have the possibility of parole. The boy's mother, Melissa Jenkins, was expected to be sentenced later Friday for her role in the 2009 slaying.
Jenkins pleaded guilty to aiding in her son's killing as part of an agreement with prosecutors. She faces up to 25 years in prison.
Prosecutors claim Ehrlick, who is more than 6-feet tall and weighed 277 pounds that summer, tortured the 50-pound boy in a pattern of escalating violence that ended with a fatal head injury. The boy had lived primarily with his father in New Plymouth and was visiting his mother in Boise when he disappeared.
The boy's body was found in a canal about a week after his disappearance set off a massive, high-profile search.
Robert's father, Charles Manwill, told the court he would always feel guilty about what happened to his son.
"I feel like I could have done more," he said.
The judge urged him not to shoulder the responsibility for his son's death.
"Please don't blame yourself, this is not your fault," Williamson said.
Prosecutors claim Ehrlick panicked the day he killed Robert because the boy was covered in bruises and about to go home to his father. Ehrlick feared Robert would tell about the abuse and he would lose his girlfriend's other son, an infant who had been removed from the home, prosecutors said.
Jurors heard recorded interviews in which Ehrlick told police he would hide Robert in a closet when social workers visited the apartment to check on Jenkin's infant son.
"Part of the tragedy is three times a week, social workers were coming into the home to teach Danny Ehrlick how to be a better parent, and Robert was hidden in the closet," said Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Jill Longhurst.
"He beat him and he tortured him, and Robert endured it, unable to talk to anyone, unable to tell anyone what was going on," Longhurst said in a statement to the court before Ehrlick was sentenced.
The defense has rejected the notion that Ehrlick despised Robert and countered that Jenkins was responsible for much of the abuse the boy had suffered.
Ehrlick's defense attorney, Gus Cahill, stressed that his client had maintained his innocence in Robert's death and was convicted by jurors who deliberated for less than two hours.
Cahill asked the court to sentence him to at least 10 years in prison.
"He definitely loved Robert," Cahill said. "He said he did not do these things."