Jason Putnam

PROVO — A father whose 20-month-old son died after he punched and shook him to "toughen him up" will spend 20 years to life in prison — but with the possibility of parole.

Family members and friends of Jason Putnam, 24, sobbed as they listened to 4th District Judge Steven Hansen read his detailed decision Tuesday afternoon.

Hansen, in delivering the sentence, recommended Putnam serve at least 20 years.

Putnam pleaded guilty to aggravated murder in March for the death of his son Jordan, with the agreement that prosecutors would not seek the death penalty.

What was undecided, however, was whether Putnam would get a recommendation for the chance at parole.

During a daylong sentencing hearing in June, Putnam listened to testimony from friends and family members who begged for the chance at parole, as well as prosecutors who replayed the tragic events of June 12, 2007.

Hansen said he wanted time to carefully review the issue before making his decision about recommending parole.

That June day, Putnam called American Fork police to report that his son had stopped breathing. He told officers that Jordan had fallen off the bed, but doctors later questioned that story after finding severe bruising on the child and internal bleeding.

Putnam was arrested after he admitted to hitting and punching Jordan because he wouldn't stop crying.

"This was a heinous crime," Hansen said. "Jordan was a helpless little boy, only 20 months old. Although the state pointed out that Jordan's voice has been silenced, the court commends the state for giving Jordan a voice during the sentencing hearing ... and bringing Jordan to life in the courtroom."

Family members and friends previously talked about how happy and peaceful Jordan was and how he loved exploring.

His mother and Putnam's wife, Mary Putnam, referred to their son as "an angel," according to earlier testimony, a description the judge said makes the malicious injuries even worse.

The judge reminded those in attendance about testimony from the medical examiner, who indicated the severe blunt force trauma to Jordan's abdomen came from a closed-fist punch, which tore blood vessels and led to profuse bleeding.

Jordan's brain also was bruised and swollen, and his testicle was injured — a non life-threatening injury which illustrated the true depravity of the event, Hansen said.

There was no evidence that Putnam intended to kill Jordan, but his actions led to his death, Hansen said. Putnam has a minor criminal history, but nothing violent in the past. He also had never hurt his wife or 5-year-old daughter, Hansen said.

"I find the defendant to be sincerely sorry for what he did," Hansen said. "Despite the egregious actions, his family and friends continue to stand by him, love and support him."

Mary Putnam, Jason's wife, had begged the judge for the possibility of parole. The couple's daughter will grow up without a father.

"I lost half my family in one day," she said at the sentencing hearing, as tears streamed down her face.

"You still love him?" defense attorney Gunda Jarvis asked in June.

"Yes," Mary Putnam replied. "Everybody makes mistakes."

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