APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Champaign County; the Hon.
BIRCH E. MORGAN, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE SIMKINS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied October 5, 1971.
Defendant, Ralph A. Vickery, was convicted on a plea of guilty of involuntary manslaughter, was denied probation and sentenced for an indeterminate term of three to ten years.
Defendant's brief states the sole issue presented by this appeal to be "Whether the defendant is entitled to a new probationary hearing because the trial judge abused his discretion in deciding the issue of probation on his own preconceptions and predilections which precluded a fair consideration of the petition on its merits".
The acts committed by the defendant, which resulted in his indictment and conviction were these: he beat to death a ten year old child, his stepson, Charles Shupaek.
Defendant's family consisted of his wife, who had been previously married, three stepchildren who were Charles (the victim), Candace, age eight, Chris, age six, and his own son, Robbie, an infant, the only child of defendant and his wife.
The incident which gave rise to defendant's conviction occurred on May 25, 1970. Defendant and his wife had left the children with a baby sitter and on their return Charles was accused of eating some jello from a bowl in the refrigerator. While Mrs. Vickery was engaged in a telephone conversation with a friend, one Antoinette Barren, the defendant began to punish Charles who had apparently denied eating the jello. The lad then offered to tell defendant the truth, about the jello if he would cease the punishment. Defendant testified he felt the boy was trying to "bargain" with him and began to beat the boy's head on the floor. This was done with sufficient violence to be audible to Mrs. Barren on the other end of the telephone line. She testified that it sounded like "* * * a kid with a ball and bouncing it but not rapidly. Just, you know, just slow."
The defendant and his family lived in a mobile home. A neighbor, Mrs. Karen White, lived in a mobile home some fifteen feet distant. On the day in question her windows were closed and she too, heard the "* * * loud, thumping noise."
Defendant's wife left the telephone when the violence erupted and saw Charles on the floor unconscious and bleeding. Defendant picked the child up by the hair and said that there was nothing wrong with him, "* * * he's just kidding". The child died later of head injuries.
The other children saw the beating and defendant stated to the six-year-old, Chris, that he might get a taste of what Charles had gotten.
Defendant and his wife told the doctor at the hospital when Charles was taken that the child had had a temper tantrum and bumped his head on the floor.
There is an abundance of credible evidence in this record that the defendant had, for several years, been guilty of a persistent pattern of child abuse, of administering physical punishment on helpless children far in excess of civilized standards. It takes a strong stomach to read this record in its entirety.
At one time defendant was possessed of a wooden paddle with which he whipped the children, and on one occasion bruised the child Chris, then aged five, so badly about the kidneys that he was hospitalized. Thereafter, defendant testified, he changed his method of punishment and would have the child bare its buttocks and bend over a piece of furniture. He felt that the paddle was "* * * a symbol of authority." On some occasions he would have the other children watch while punishment was being administered.
It is also clear from the record that on one occasion he administered a severe burn to the thumb of the child Chris, in an effort to cure him of sucking his thumb.
On at least one prior instance a doctor had suspected child abuse when one of the children ...