A former juvenile detention officer who was set to stand trial Monday in the 2014 death of his infant son was sentenced to 48 years in prison Thursday in a plea bargain with prosecutors.
Judge Ralph Strother of Waco’s 19th State District Court approved the plea agreement with Anton Juel Henry, who pleaded guilty to the lesser charges of murder and injury to a child in the death of his 2-month-old son and injuries to the boy’s twin sister.
Anton Henry had been charged with capital murder, but prosecutors were not going to seek the death penalty against him. Prosecutors also agreed to dismiss one count of injury to a child and reduced the other count from a first-degree felony to a state-jail felony. Strother sentenced Anton Henry to 24 months in prison on the injury to a child count and ordered the sentences to be served concurrently.
Anton Henry, 30, must serve at least 24 years before he can become eligible for parole. If he had been found guilty of capital murder, he would have been sentenced to an automatic life sentence with no hope for parole.
In a victim-impact statement after the sentencing, his former wife, Rhonda Henry, the mother of his two children, told Anton Henry that at least he still would have a chance at a life that her son, Jaden, does not have.
“I can’t describe how much pain I have been in for the past three years of my life,” she said. “I never thought our marriage would come to an end like it did. I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. The hardest thing of all was telling our daughter what happened to her brother and her father. Every day I look at her and see you.”
Thumbing through a photo album for Anton Henry to see, Rhonda Henry said, “our happier times,” while showing photos of her pregnancy and the birth of their twin children. The last photo in the book was taken at Jaden’s funeral, she said.
“At the end of the day, God has the final say-so, and you will have to answer to him,” Rhonda Henry said.
Anton Henry pleaded guilty to killing his baby in June 2014 by fracturing his skull and ribs. An autopsy showed the child died from “blunt-force injury.” While Anton Henry made incriminating statements to police, he never told them exactly how he caused the injuries to the child.
Anton Henry, who had worked at the Bill Logue Juvenile Justice Center as a detention officer since September 2013, told police he was “frustrated and overwhelmed by Jaden’s constant crying” and that he grabbed the baby by his torso, squeezing him “really hard,” according to court records.
He also pleaded guilty to injuring his daughter, Jaliyah, by striking or squeezing her torso with his hand or fist and injuring her left ankle.
“I think it is sad for both Mr. Henry and for his wife because nobody won,” said attorney Russ Hunt, who represented Anton Henry with attorney Michelle Tuegel. “It was just a case where we wanted to get the matter resolved. There are no winners.”