Man sentenced for severely injuring 5-month-old nephew in Tacoma

A man who critically injured his 5-month-old nephew while watching the child was sentenced Friday.

Carlos Daniel Salazar Santoyo, 21, pleaded guilty last month to first-degree child assault.

Pierce County Superior Court Judge Stephanie Arend gave him a low-end sentence of seven years, nine months in prison.

According to charging papers:

The Tacoma Fire Department responded to a report that the baby was having trouble breathing Dec. 21, 2018.

A doctor told investigators that the baby’s injuries were probably from shaking.

Salazar said he tried to sooth the crying baby and that he might have injured the child while playing with him.

He said he used wrestling moves that involved holding the baby and jumping onto the bed with him, and he showed investigators with a doll how he let the baby fall on the bed multiple times from as high as his head.

The boy’s mother told the court Friday that the baby is doing well. He’s almost walking, she said.

She said she didn’t want her brother-in-law to be incarcerated and that he had always taken good care of her children.

Deputy prosecutor Zach Dillon told the judge that doctors initially didn’t believe the child would survive. The baby is doing better than initially expected but still faces long-term struggles, Dillon said.

He’s blind and has missed milestones, the prosecutor told the court.

“We’re talking about a 5-month-old baby, now about a year and a half, who is not going to live a normal life,” Dillon said.

Defense attorney Nicholas Andrews noted his client’s youthfulness and suggested Salazar might not have understood the way he was playing with the baby would hurt the child.

Salazar apologized for what happened and said he hopes he can one day be forgiven.

He said he was thankful for the support of his family and that he hopes his nephew continues to recover.

Salazar’s wife told the court she didn’t think there was any way he could have hurt the baby on purpose.

“You did hurt a child,” Judge Arend told Salazar in response. “Severely hurt a child.”

She said it was “inconceivable” to her that he could treat a baby that way “and not understand that this is not play for a” child that age.

An ordinary person in their 20s understands that such behavior would hurt a baby, she said.

Then she handed down Salazar’s sentence.

Alexis Krell covers local, state and federal court cases that affect Pierce County. She started covering courts in 2016. Before that she wrote about crime and breaking news for almost four years as The News Tribune’s night reporter.