Virtually nothing in Erik G. Sherman’s past indicated that he would be seated, in a jail jumpsuit on Friday, before a Superior Court Commissioner who complained that a plea agreement would not allow him to sentence Sherman to life in prison for the brutal beating death of his 20-day-old son.
Sherman, 35, grew up in a loving family. He was the team captain of his Eastern Washington University hockey team before earning his degree. His sister said she would always buy the cheap properties when they played Monopoly to ensure that Sherman would win.
But all of that seeming normalcy changed in a fit of drug-fueled rage that prompted the father of two older girls to attack his infant son, Emmett, just three weeks after he was born on July 18, 2018.
“You may think you received a lengthy sentence,” Superior Court Commissioner John Stine said after sentencing Sherman to 320 months, or 26 1/2 years in prison. “I don’t.”
Sherman previously pleaded guilty to homicide by abuse for the beating death that a doctor at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center told police was “one of the worst cases of child abuse he had seen in 23 years of practice.”
On Friday, Stine followed the agreement between Deputy Spokane County Public Defender Victoria Blumhorst and Deputy Prosecutor Amanda Fry to sentence Sherman.
Stine said he wanted to sentence Sherman to life in prison, but if he had, Sherman could have appealed the sentence. As a result, a jury would have been subjected to autopsy photos showing the battered baby who died from bleeding on the brain.
The baby’s mother, Yazmin Russell, said after the hearing that she was consulted about the plea agreement but did not know that Sherman could have received life in prison.
“He took 80 to 90 years away from my son and he only gets 24 to 26 years? They don’t care that he brutally beat his own son,” Russell said. “I don’t think that’s fair.”
During the hearing, Russell said her whole life was flipped upside down after she discovered her son’s injuries on Aug. 5, 2018. She did not call a doctor until two days later, when the bruised Emmett stopped breathing. She said that Sherman had hid the extent of the baby’s injuries from her.
“He robbed me and he robbed my son and he beat my son to death,” Russell said. “Through it all, all he could say is that he’s guilty. He doesn’t say why.”
She said the first time Sherman cried was when doctors took the baby boy off the machines that kept him breathing.
“Now for the rest of my life I’m going to be stuck wondering why it wasn’t me, why it was Emmett,” she said.
Sherman initially denied hurting the boy when questioned by Spokane police detectives. They seized his cellphone, which contained a video clip from Aug. 7, 2018, the day that Emmett stopped breathing.
“The infant’s eyes are completely dilated and bruises can be seen all over his head and face,” Detective Brian Cestnik wrote. “Though his eyes are open, he does not appear to be conscious.”
Even after Sherman admitting to the killing, several members of his family offered support at the sentencing. In a letter read in court, his own 16-year-old daughter said that she wants her father to wrap his arms around her and tell her “everything is going to be OK.”
“In the public eye, he is a horrible person,” the girl said in the letter. “In my eye, he is human. He is my dad. He will always be my protector.”
When he was clean and sober, several family member described Sherman as a caring and loving father. Sherman’s attorney, Blumhorst, said that Sherman’s family described him as a loving father, brother and son. But he had recently started using methamphetamine, which made him capable “of a heinous act.”
“Mr. Sherman has accepted responsibility for his actions,” Blumhorst said. “He did not want to put anyone through the trauma of going through a trial. Mr. Sherman lost his only son. He will be haunted by that forever.”
Sherman said the sentencing “was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I want the court to know that I accept this lengthy sentence. I am going to take the time to become a better man.
“I’m sorry for this tragedy and everything I’ve caused.”
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