116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
WEST UNION -- A Westgate man convicted in the death of an infant who died from brain injuries in 2018 was sentenced this week to life in prison without parole.
A Fayette County jury convicted Dean A. Hettinger, 24, one of the infant’s guardians, of first-degree murder in early March. The other charge of child endangerment causing death was merged with the first-degree murder conviction, court documents show.
Hettinger was sentenced Monday.
Hettinger physically abused 4-week-old Holten Smith from April 27 to 29, 2018, which resulted in brain injuries, according to testimony.
University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics doctors found the infant had brain bleeding after he was brought in by his guardians, who reported the infant was “seizing.”
An Iowa Department of Human Services investigator reported a suspected child abuse of the 3-week-old, who was living in a rural home outside of Westgate, to the sheriff’s office April 30, 2018.
This was a day after the infant was taken to a hospital in Sumner, a search warrant affidavit stated. The infant was transferred to the UI children’s unit. The child died May 27, 2018.
Amanda Smith, Holten’s mother, and Holten tested positive for methamphetamine after his birth April 2, 2018.
DHS removed the infant from his mother, and he was placed in the custody of the mother’s half-sister, Alicyn Kane, and her boyfriend, Hettinger, according to the affidavit.
Hettinger told authorities, during an interview, that the infant hadn’t been easy to care for, saying he “spits up a lot and is very fussy,” the affidavit stated.
Hettinger said the baby had been taken to the doctor a few times but sent home with no concerns.
The child, he said, was making “twitching movements” on April 29 and later in the day stopped crying and seemed unresponsive, he told investigators.
Hettinger, during that interview, denied witnessing another person injuring the infant or dropping the infant himself or injuring the child.
Kane told authorities Holten wasn’t having issues until April 29, when she noticed him twitching, not responding and having “laboring breaths.” At that point, Kane said she and Hettinger took him to the hospital.
UI doctors told investigators that their testing and treatment of Holten led them to believe that the bleeding in Holten’s brain was a result of non-accidental head trauma. They estimated the onset of symptoms caused by the head trauma would have been severe.
An autopsy showed Holten had 36 rib fractures, which doctors said were consistent with inflicted trauma, according to court documents.
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