LOGAN — Several months after a neighbor threw lye at them, two Smithfield boys, ages 4 and 5, are recovering but still sometimes break down when they are reminded of the pain, their father said Tuesday.
"These events have left scars in our hearts that will never heal," Clayton Coulam said. "We did nothing to deserve this kind of stress and torture in our life."
After considering Coulam's statement, a judge ordered the boys' neighbor, Jason Keith Summers, to serve up to 15 years in prison.
"I understand, sir, that you have issues," 1st District Judge Brian Cannell told Summers. "I don't understand fully the basis for your behavior, other than it's horrendous."
Coulam said Summers had previously stolen cameras from his family's property and alleged that the acid attack was premeditated, noting Summers was wearing gloves at the time.
At a hospital in June, Coulam and four others had to hold down one of the boys as they tried to rinse his wounds for half an hour, he recalled. The child writhed in pain, sustaining several cuts as he fought to get away.
"This was worse than the crime itself," Coulam said. "I would have done anything to take away that pain from my son."
At the Tuesday hearing, prosecutors argued that Summers is a danger to the public and his account of what happens conflicts with surveillance video that captured the incident.
Summers told investigators ahead of sentencing that it was an accident, saying he was spraying pesticide in his garden on June 15 when the neighbor boys called his son "stupid." Summers reported he gestured for them to go inside but still had pesticide in hand "that flew out and struck them in the chest and face," deputy Cache County attorney Barbara Lachmar said.
"In fact, he went over to the carport of the other residents," Lachmar said, and "threw a caustic chemical substance in the face of these tiny children, causing them permanent emotional and physical harm." His own children were in the yard at the time, Lachmar added.
Summers apologized in a brief statement before he was sentenced.
"I wish I could go back in time and change what happened," he said, pledging he won't hurt innocent people in the future. "Please give me the chance to make things right."
He pleaded guilty in January to two counts of child abuse, a second-degree felony. In exchange, four other charges were dropped, including obstructing justice and escape from custody, third-degree felonies. Police said in June he tried to jump out of an officer's car after his arrest.Comment on this story
His attorney Shannon Demler said Summers has turned to heroin and methamphetamine as he struggles with his own father's death. Demler sought jail time and counseling for his client, who he said has four children.
"They need his support. He needs to get his life back together so he can take care of those kids and be a family unit," Demler said.
The judge ordered Summers to serve at least one and up to 15 years in prison, noting the seriousness of the emotional and physical injuries the boys sustained. He gave Summers credit for the more than eight months he has spent in jail, and allowed the sentence to run concurrently alongside other convictions for drug possession, burglary and forgery.