Camp Casey soldier gets 15-month sentence for assaulting infant son
November 30, 2006
CAMP CASEY, South Korea — A specialist who cracked his infant son’s skull and later burned him during a bath while under the influence of alcohol and painkillers was sentenced to 15 months in prison at a court-martial Tuesday.
Spc. Destin W. Fulcher, 24, of the 2nd Infantry Division’s 2nd Battalion, 9th Infantry, Company B, also received a bad-conduct discharge and reduction in rank to E-1.
Fulcher pleaded guilty to assault, one count of making a false statement and another for violating a general order by breaking curfew.
Fulcher said he did not injure his son on purpose.
“I have to live with the guilt every day for the rest of my life,” Fulcher told military Judge Col. Gregory Gross.
On July 15, Fulcher’s wife left their off-post apartment after a verbal argument. Already on prescription Percocet, Fulcher took his 5-month-old son to the post shoppette and bought a case of beer, according to testimony.
Fulcher drank six beers and went to check on his son, who was crying on the floor spread where he slept. Fulcher then shook the boy, whose skull fractured when his head hit the floor.
Later that evening, his wife returned, and Fulcher agreed to help out more around the house.
“I wanted to give [my son a bath] to give her a break,” he said.
Fulcher said he still was under the influence of alcohol and painkillers but noticed the scalding water temperature. The water burned the baby’s head, shoulders, face and foot with first- and second-degree burns.
More than four months later, hair and skin are still missing from a patch of the baby’s head.
After Fulcher passed out, his wife took the baby to the base medical clinic. They were transported to the 121st Combat Support Hospital at Yongsan Garrison.
Emergency room personnel began treating the burns and called Capt. Jeffrey Henderson, a pediatrician.
“What then became most concerning was his right eye deviation and neurological abnormalities,” Henderson told the court.
A CT scan revealed a fracture on the back of the baby’s skull, which also made bleeding in the brain a concern, Henderson said.
The baby’s vision returned to normal after two months, according to testimony. It will be unclear until he begins school whether he has suffered any lingering brain damage, three doctors testified.
However, an Okinawa-based pediatric neurologist testified by telephone that his examination of the child revealed a normal intelligence level for his age range.
Before his arrest, Fulcher told investigators that he tripped and fell on top of his son, according to court documents. He said he lied because his wife had already told hospital officials that she had mistakenly injured the child, and he did not want to make things worse.
The curfew charge stemmed from an Oct. 1 incident in which Fulcher said he went to buy food for his wife, who is pregnant with his second child.
Fulcher’s mother and wife both made impassioned pleas on the stand to limit the sentence and return him to his family.
Wife Sarah Fulcher described him as a “perfect husband and perfect father.”
“I don’t want him to go away. We really need him,” said Sarah Fulcher, who met him while working at a Dongducheon area club.
However, prosecutors said that Fulcher’s behavior could not be pardoned.
“The Army needs soldiers who make wise decisions under pressure,” said prosecutor Capt. Charles Halverson. “The accused didn’t do that, and the results were devastating.”
Halverson asked Gross for a 36-month sentence but signed a pretrial agreement limiting the sentence to 27 months. Fulcher instead received the 15-month sentence. Defendants receive the judge’s sentence if it is less than the pretrial agreement.