In a Stockton courtroom Tuesday, Justin Wayne Beebe looked at his young daughter and said between loud sobs: "My baby, I love you."
A few minutes later, he was sentenced to a life sentence, with a minimum of seven years in prison, for torturing his daughter when she was just two months old.
He also received three-and-a-half years for beating the baby's mother when she tried to seek medical attention for her daughter.
But the baby's mother and Beebe's family, who were all emotional throughout the proceedings, say the sentencing is too harsh.
The case illustrates a not uncommon dilemma: A man abuses a wife or his children, and then gets sent away to prison, unable to be a parent or spouse or breadwinner.
It pits the desire for children to grow up with fathers, and women to have the support of a husband or boyfriend, against the need to protect women and children from abusive behavior.
"They are taking his life away and taking her father away," the baby's mother said before the sentencing.
She believes the entire case has been blown out of proportion by the media and the criminal justice system. While she acknowledges Beebe beat her daughter, she said he should have received lesser charges and a lighter sentence.
She does not believe Beebe, 22, would have intentionally hurt her daughter, but that he did it because he is an alcoholic. She believes he should go to jail, but said it should be for a shorter term and should include treatment for his addiction.
"I don't think he tortured my daughter. She is perfectly fine, there is no memory loss. … God only knows what happened that day, but he loves his baby since the day she was born," the mother said in court while crying.
The mother asked not to be identified in the article.
After receiving the sentence, Beebe, chained in an orange jumpsuit, spoke in a shaky emotional voice from his seat facing Judge Michael Garrigan. Beebe said he knows he had made a mistake but believes the system could have helped him instead of sending him to prison.
"It's not in my nature to hurt any child intentionally. … I'm a bad father, I messed up. But this is a case of me being an impatient father," Beebe said to the court.
His attorney, Michael Platt, said he is already working on appealing the jury verdict. He also said this unfortunate situation is a case of bad parenting.
"I don't believe there was any evidence to justify a verdict of torture," Platt said.
But Lodi Police Detective Steve Maynard, who was assigned to the case, said he thinks it is an appropriate punishment. Even if the baby grows up without her father, he said it is more important the baby is not growing up with an abusive parent.
"He didn't deny beating the child," Maynard said. "That was not going to stop. Nothing was going to change that."
District Attorney Angela Hayes, who prosecuted Beebe during the two-week trial, said it is typical for the victims to think that because the baby recovered, the punishment does not fit the crime.
"The fact the baby did recover, was not related to Mr. Beebe. It was divine intervention, fate, or whatever you want to call it, but she was in that predicament because her father put her there," Hayes said.
'A hero that night'
Beebe was arrested on Aug. 11, 2008, after his girlfriend came home from her first day back at work after maternity leave. She saw wounds on the baby and tried to take the infant to the hospital, but Beebe injured her and wouldn't let her leave for several hours, according to police and prosecutors.
When the baby arrived at the Lodi Memorial Hospital, police said she had heavy bruising on her face, forehead, chest, back, left ankle and groin. The baby was flown to UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento for treatment.
Prosecutors filed the torture charges after seeing the bruising on the baby's buttocks and vaginal area, but also said there was no evidence of sexual assault.
"It was pretty brutal. We were able to prove that he did, in fact, torture his child. He repeatedly beat her throughout the day," Maynard said.
But the baby's mother said the injuries were not as severe as prosecutors and police have portrayed them.
When she arrived at the hospital in Lodi, the mother said she was told her baby could die, and said when she talked to detectives she was not telling the truth because of the high stress of the situation.
"When I was told my baby was going to die, it made me say stuff that never happened. I was going to say what I could to get him in trouble," the mother said.
She said the baby did have some bruising and bleeding on the brain, but doctors at UC Davis assured her the baby would make a full recovery. She questions whether she would have sought treatment for the baby if she knew this would be the outcome.
Beebe's mother, Laura Beebe, said the baby was only monitored to make sure the injuries were not more severe and was released three days after the incident.
"There was no medication," Laura Beebe said. "We were told the child would be fine and grow to be healthy child. Seven days later, you couldn't even tell."
Beebe's aunt Michelle Williams, said there are often cases in the media of parents, especially mothers, who feel overwhelmed by parenting, and they spank or hit their children too hard. But she said these parents get a second chance and help through counseling.
"I think about how many parents make bad choices and leave a mark on their child, and they don't get life in prison," Williams said.
Maynard said he knew the mother changed her story after the incident and is not surprised because that often happens in domestic violence situations.
"She was nothing more than a hero that night," Maynard said. "It's because of her that the baby is alive. She took a beating for that baby. She fought for hours to get medical attention for that baby."
If the mother was in the same situation again, he said he knows she would get medical attention for the baby. He said the mother's story was consistent for three days after the incident, and the mother recounted it to several witnesses.
Hayes also said it is common for domestic violence victims to change their story after the event.
"Ninety-nine percent of the time, it changes to 'it was a little push,'" Hayes said.
Besides torture and domestic violence, Beebe was also convicted by a jury in July of child endangerment, corporal injury to a child, making terrorist threats and misdemeanor false imprisonment.
Rather than take the case to trial, prosecutors had offered Beebe a 24-year prison sentence. Platt countered with 10 years. The case went to trial when they couldn't reach an agreement.
Before the sentencing, Beebe's father, Wayne, said after 9/11 he had great respect for law enforcement. But this case has made him lose faith in the criminal justice system.
"It's fake; they can trump up whatever they want to," he said.
At the sentencing, Justin Beebe argued that with rehabilitation he could have been a good father to his daughter.
"Prison is not going to help me," he said. "I'm going to be chewed up and spit out."
He accused Hayes of only being focused on getting political points from the conviction.
"You won, Ms. Hayes. You got my life. Does it feel good?" Beebe said.
Hayes said she simply presents the facts in cases, and that Beebe was ultimately convicted by a jury of twelve people.
"Mr. Beebe is under the impression that I woke up one day and decided to charge him with crime, which shows his mindset," Hayes said.
Beebe had multiple run-ins with the law on domestic violence issues with the baby's mother, Hayes said, and there would have been opportunities to get him help then.
"I didn't hear or know of Justin Beebe until I got this case," Hayes said. "Someone else had 20 years or four years to get him the help that he so apparently desperately needed."
But while watching her daughter push her stroller outside the courtroom, the mother said they never could afford help and didn't know where to turn. She is weary from the 14-month court process. Yet she remains hopeful Beebe could get a shorter sentence if the case is appealed.
"I don't need to take my daughter to prison for the rest of my life to see her father," the mother said.