Florissant resident Zachary Thomas Cook was sentenced to 22 years in prison in the death of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son on Thursday, according to a report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The crime occurred in 2011.
As Patch reported in 2011, on May 5, police responded to a report of an injury to a child in the 2400 block of Blue Heron in Florissant. The child suffered a head injury and was taken to St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where he died from his injuries on May 8.
The police investigation revealed that the child sustained the injuries after being shaken.
The three-year-old as well as another young child were in the care of Cook at the time of the incident, according to Sgt. Kevin Boschert of the Florissant Police Department.
Cook pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and abuse of a child resulting in death. His lawyer said he had a “short fuse” and lacked parenting skills.
Cook’s attorney, David Ferman, said the man had been babysitting Austin while his mother was out. The boy kept running outside into traffic, so Cook brought him into the house and “tossed him onto a time-out couch.”
But police said the child was thrown across the room and onto the floor.
"He lost it," Ferman told the Post. "He was very nervous and upset (Austin) would be hit by a car. And instead, he disciplined him to death, in his own house, by his own hand."
Cook’s attorney added that the man considered himself Austin’s father, and that the boy looked like Cook—but his obituary lists another man as the father and police say Cook is not the biological father.
Thursday morning, Cook was sentenced to 22 years for each count, with the sentences to run concurrently.
Post reporter Kim Bell noted that Austin’s grandmother told the court after sentencing that the boy was running across the street because he was afraid of Cook—but Cook’s attorney denied that allegation.