Man charged with assaulting baby gets 8 years

Posted: Thursday, November 07, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- A Fairbanks man charged with causing the near-suffocation of his 7-week-old daughter by sticking his fingers in her mouth last February will spend eight years in prison for that incident and two others.

Durwanzle Cooper, 27, was sentenced Wednesday to six years with two suspended on the charge relating to the assault of the baby, four years with two suspended on a charge relating to the assault of the mother and three years with one year suspended on a check-forgery case.

After the prison time, Cooper will have five years during which he could be sent back to jail for five years if he gets in trouble. The sentence, which was assigned by Judge Richard Savell, is the maximum jail time Cooper could have received under the plea agreement he reached in June.

Cooper was arrested after staff at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital called police to report suspicious injuries to the baby, who was brought into the emergency room on Feb. 22.

A Fairbanks police sergeant said the girl had injuries of blunt force trauma to the back of her throat, which swelled to the point her airway was restricted. The injuries were life-threatening, police said, and the girl was flown to Providence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage, where staff also discovered the girl had a fractured left arm. She later contracted pneumonia.

Police said Cooper admitted to sticking two fingers down the girl's throat because he was upset and frustrated that she would not stop crying. During the investigation, police also charged Cooper with trying to strangle the girl's mother in a Fairbanks apartment Nov. 13, 2001.

He was originally detained on a fugitive from justice warrant out of Florida for a charge of violating his probation. According to comments made by Savell during Wednesday's sentencing hearing, the original charges in that case also involved Cooper assaulting a romantic partner as well as a young child.

Before his arrest, Cooper had been indicted on charges of forging three checks in January 2001, one for more than $500 and the other two for between $50 and $500.

In his agreement, Cooper pleaded no contest to a consolidated charge of second-degree forgery.

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