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Mother of beaten boy sentenced to one year in jail

Special to the Union Leader

April 08. 2013 10:45PM

OSSIPEE - The mother of the boy who was seriously beaten at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, Justin Roy, will spend a year in jail after pleading guilty to child endangerment charges in a negotiated deal with the Carroll County Attorney's office.

The defendant, Heather Downs, 33, formerly of Bartlett, will commence her sentence two weeks following the birth of her fifth son. She is pregnant and nearing her due date, according to testimony provided by attorneys during the sentencing hearing held Monday in Carroll County Superior Court before Justice Steven Houran.

Justice Houran suspended a 12-month jail sentence on a felony witness tampering charge, and imposed a two-year probation period during which time Downs is required to participate in parenting classes and any other educational or treatment programs as prescribed.

During the hearing, Deputy County Attorney Susan Boone said the state was not recommending work release or home confinement.

She said it was a "tough call" not to pursue the trial on witness tampering, but felt it was not in the boy's best interest to put him on the stand against his mother.

Downs also pleaded guilty to witness tampering for telling her oldest son not to tell police what happened at Roy's house.

The child endangerment charge alleged that Downs failed to bring her son, Strider, who was 2½ years old at the time, directly to the hospital after she left Roy's house on Dec. 19, 2011 with Strider and her two other sons, 11-month-old Gallagher, and 7-year-old Zander.

Roy was sentenced last week to spend up to 55 years in state prison for beating Strider, jumping on Zander's legs and pushing the boy into a table, and for squirting the baby over the face with the contents of a baby bottle.

Strider and Gallagher are now in the custody of Edward Skidgel Jr., the children's father, and their paternal grandparents, Lanette and Larry Grant of Maine.

Zander is in the custody of his maternal grandparents, Betty and Ross Pilkington.

Downs has a fourth son who lives elsewhere.

In reaching the deal, Downs will be allowed to live with the Pilkington's and Zander for two weeks after the birth of her child.

She is then ordered to report to the Carroll County House of Corrections at 9 a.m. on the 14th day after the birth.

After urging the judge to impose a harsher sentence, Grant was disappointed with the outcome.

"The trauma is so horrible, and she's going to get 12 months and be all done? Because of her actions, four brothers are strung all over the state," she said. "Heather needs to go away. May be not as much as Justin Roy, but 12 months, how is that fair?"

Betty Pilkington also addressed the judge. She said there is "a lot of bad blood" between the Grants, Skidgel and her daughter.

She said they had little to do with the children until Dec. 19, 2011. Unfortunately, she said, nobody gets along and the children are being used as pawns.

In a statement to the court, Downs said she takes responsibility for exercising bad judgment, but added that she had no idea of the extent of the injuries or what had really happened to Strider until he was at the hospital.

"A lot of people don't understand what happened," she said. "Yes I used poor judgment and I admitted that to everybody.

"I love all my kids. It's devastating the boys are separated," she said.

Crime, law and justice Bartlett

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