A Haugen man convicted of killing his 3-month-old daughter will serve 6 years and 9 months in prison.
Curtis A. Strand, 34, was sentenced in Barron County Circuit Court on June 24 and will serve an additional 6 years of extended supervision after the prison term. He was given 177 days of jail credit.
In January a jury found Strand guilty of obstructing an officer and second-degree reckless homicide in the death of his daughter Haeven Strand-Dostal.
The Barron County Sheriff’s Department responded to a call at Strand’s home on July 9, 2017, for an infant who was not breathing. Haeven was flown to Marshfield Medical Center, where she was pronounced deceased on July 11, 2017.
An autopsy revealed the child had a 10-centimeter skull fracture and brain damage. Strand had not mentioned a head injury to 911 or medical personnel.
Strand was charged with first-degree intentional homicide in November 2017.
Before sentencing, the child’s mother, Lindsey Dostal, told the court she wanted Strand to rot in prison.
“This man and [his] family have not once inquired about where my daughter is buried. I’ve often wondered why,” she said.
Prosecutor John O’Boyle told the court that it stood out that the way Dostal found out that Haeven was in the hospital was through a police officer and not through a phone call from Strand.
O’Boyle asked the court for a minimum of 10 years confinement, and 5-10 years of extended supervision.
Defense attorney John Birdsall was critical of the prosecutor’s description of Strand and reiterated the descriptions by Strand’s family and neighbors of a man who is loving, caring, selfless and hardworking.
“[Strand’s] character and the facts do not merit a 10 year prison sentence,” Birdsall said. He asked for 3-5 years in prison.
Strand apologized in court to Dostal and her family, his own family, and to his fiancée and their 8-month-old son.
He asked Judge Michael Bitney to consider the time he will miss out on seeing his son grow up.
Bitney said that only two people know what happened that night and only one of them is with us today. The fact that Strand did not tell medical personnel about a fall stood out to him.
Haeven was dependent on the care of her father, and in that regard he failed, Bitney said.
“The court does not view this as a tragic accident,” he said.
As part of the sentence, Strand will not be allowed unsupervised contact with children under 6 years of age, including family members.
Investigation and trial
Strand had initially told police that he didn’t know what caused the fracture. He later said the child had slipped off his knee earlier that morning.
“It was a tragic accident,” defense attorney Birdsall told the jury during the trial.
He didn’t tell police that he’d dropped the child because he was ashamed and embarrassed, Birdsall said.
O’Boyle argued that Strand’s story didn’t make sense.
The medical examiner who performed the autopsy testified that she did not believe Strand’s story or that a fall of 3-feet could cause a fracture of that magnitude.
After a trial filled with objections and contentious cross examinations, O’Boyle motioned for an additional charge of second degree reckless homicide to be added before closing arguments.
Judge Bitney sustained the motion, stating its inclusion would not have affected the defense’s argument that the child’s death had been an accident.
O’Boyle later said that as the trial evidence developed, specifically the 911 call and an emergency responder’s testimony, “utter disregard for human life” came into focus.
To convict a defendant on first degree reckless homicide, an “utter disregard for human life” must be shown.
The lesser charge may have been the difference between the 12 year prison sentence and an acquittal. A jurist later stated that due to Strand placing the 911 call and performing CPR on his child, the jury did not believe he showed an utter disregard for human life.