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Appellate court reduces sentence of teen who beat to death toddler

An appellate court agreed this week to reduce the prison sentence of a Springville teenager who beat to death a 23-month-old boy.

Dylan Schumaker, 19, was sentenced in January 2014 to the maximum punishment of 25 years to life after a jury found him guilty of killing Austin Smith, his girlfriend’s son.

The appellate court modified the sentence to an indeterminate term of 18 years to life. That means Schumaker will be eligible for parole after he has served 18 years. Once he is released, he would remain under state supervision for the rest of his life.

The judicial panel rejected other arguments Schumaker made and upheld the murder conviction.

Schumaker was 16 in March 2013 when he battered the toddler over the course of a few hours, while home with his girlfriend’s infant son.

He admitted that he slapped the boy for spitting food, banged his head on the floor while changing his diaper, and put a pillow over the child’s head and punched him repeatedly when the child was crying. He also claimed that at one point the boy had fallen down stairs.

The assault occurred in Schumaker’s mother’s house, where Schumaker had lived since his discharge from a drug rehab program. His girlfriend, Ashlee Smith, then 19, and her children had been staying in the house, because her own family reportedly had thrown her out.

Schumaker was not Austin’s father and usually only watched the infant when Smith was at work. He testified during his trial that he had not been taking medication prescribed to control his attention deficit disorder and anger problems, and that he didn’t intend to kill Austin.

In their unanimous decision to reduce Schumaker’s sentence, the appellate judges agreed “that the sentence imposed is unduly harsh and severe in light of defendant’s youth and lack of parental guidance, his lack of prior criminal convictions, and his mental health issues.”

In the same decision, the judges characterized Schumaker’s statement that he didn’t intend to kill Austin as “self-serving.”

In the appeal, Schumaker argued that his attorney should have pursued a defense of “extreme emotional disturbance,” a claim the judges ruled was without merit. They pointed out that attorneys have no obligation to make arguments that “have little or no chance of success.”