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Hayden man receives life sentence for abuse of 7-week-old

Nicholas T. Branson was sentenced to life in prison with 25 years fixed for sexual penetration and 10 years for injury to a child.
Credit: Coeur d'Alene Press
Nicholas Branson.

COEUR D'ALENE, Idaho — A man who admitted to grievously harming a 7-week-old infant received a life sentence Wednesday for the abuse, as reported by our news partners, the Coeur d'Alene Press.

Nicholas T. Branson, 27, of Hayden, pleaded guilty in June to injury to a child and forcible sexual penetration by foreign object, both felonies.

District Judge John Mitchell sentenced Branson to life in prison with 25 years fixed for sexual penetration and 10 years for injury to a child. The sentences, which are the maximum allowed for the crimes, will run concurrently.

That means Branson will be eligible for parole in about 25 years.

In late March, Hailey N. Harris pleaded guilty to felony injury to a child for her role in the abuse and received the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

A married couple, Branson and Harris were arrested in January after a monthlong investigation by the Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office, triggered by a report of an infant with “traumatic” injuries at Kootenai Health.

A doctor who examined the child described brain injuries as “very specific to abuse” and “not seen in accidental head injury.”

The child had bleeding around her brain, according to court documents, as well as in the backs of her eyes and in her lower back.

She sustained at least 14 fractures, including multiple fractures to both legs. Rib fractures consistent with blunt force trauma or squeezing appeared to have occurred at different times.

Tests indicated liver damage, likely caused by trauma to the abdomen.

Medical staff also discovered trauma to the child’s genitals, which Branson admitted to causing.

A medical expert reportedly testified at Branson’s sentencing that the genital injuries were the worst she had seen in a child that age. Physical evidence of child sexual abuse is rare, she said.

The child was reportedly discharged from the hospital in late December and entered foster care.

The long-term impacts of the abuse are not yet known, prosecutors said.

The Coeur d'Alene Press is a KREM 2 news partner. For more from our partners, click here.

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