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Lockport man gets 3 years in prison for beating girlfriend's son

A Lockport woman called her former live-in boyfriend "a monster" and "a demon" Wednesday as he was sentenced to three years in prison for a near-fatal beating of her 3-year-old son last year.

The sentence for Christopher C. Starkweather, 21, of South Niagara Street, also covered a separate case in which he took part in the sale of a stolen gun Sept. 11, 2009.

He had pleaded guilty to reduced charges of attempted second-degree assault and attempted second-degree criminal possession of a weapon.

The beating victim, Tyler Olivate, nearly died of internal injuries, Deputy District Attorney Holly E. Sloma said. It appeared the child had been punched in the stomach repeatedly by Starkweather, who is not the boy's biological father.

"I'm only human. I made mistakes," Starkweather said.

"Did you snap? Did you lose it?" Niagara County Judge Sara Sheldon Sperrazza asked.

"Influence of drugs," Starkweather replied.

"It's hard to believe a man I loved could be such a monster," said the child's mother, Deborah Olivate.

She said Starkweather called her June 17 and told her Tyler needed medical attention for an asthma attack.

She told Sperrazza that the boy's internal organs had been crushed against his back and that he also suffered whiplash.

She said Starkweather told her, "I can't go to the hospital. They'll think I abused him."

Olivate said the boy was under such heavy sedation that he went through withdrawal symptoms for three days in Women & Children's Hospital in Buffalo after a week and a half on the brink of death.

"We started off thinking this was a homicide investigation. By the grace of God, something happened, and he turned around," Sloma said.

Sloma said it can be hard to prove child abuse cases at trial. The most prison time Starkweather could have received on his assault plea was four years. The weapons charge could have brought up to seven years.

Olivate said that in retrospect, things were suspicious in her Lockport home.

"I was led to believe by Mr. Starkweather that Tyler was very clumsy. He always had bruises," she told the judge.

Suspicion of child abuse led to the boy's placement in foster care, and the mother was limited to supervised visits, Sloma said.

During her first visit, Olivate said Tyler told her, "Daddy punched me in the stomach."

Defense attorney Patrick M. Balkin said, "If my client was a monster, he wouldn't have called for help."

But Balkin added, "Is he criminal? Yes. Is he stupid? Yes. Is he vicious? Yes. Is he of low moral character? Yes."

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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