Matthew Kuzdzal was sentenced to 50 years in prison for sodomizing and beating his girlfriend’s five-year-old son to death in their West Side apartment last year.
Kuzdzal beat Eain Clayton Brooks with such force that the boy’s skull fractured, leading to his death two days later.
State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns, who presided at the jury trial last mont, handed down the sentence this morning.
The 27-year-old Kuzdzal was convicted of second-degree murder and predatory sexual conduct against a child in connection with Eain’s death following the Sept. 15, 2013, attack in the Albany Street apartment.
A medical examiner testified that the fatal injury required significant force, comparable to a fall from a 20-story building.
The boy also had bruises on his back and shoulders, abrasions on his hips and injuries in and around his rectum.
In his closing statement at the trial, Assistant District Attorney James Bargnesi dismissed the Kuzdzal’s testimony at trial that he pushed Eain hard toward the bathtub after the boy wet himself and refused to take a shower, causing him to fall backward and hit his head on the tub.
Bargnesi told the jury that the prosecution was not required to prove when the fatal head injury occurred, acknowledging that he couldn’t say exactly when it happened after Brooks left the apartment before 2 p.m. to run errands.
But he said the injury and Kuzdzal’s failure to seek immediate treatment showed a depraved indifference for Eain’s life.
“You push a 5-year-old so hard that he hits his head against the tub and suffers a fractured skull, knocking him out, leaving him gasping for air and suffering a seizure, and you don’t call immediately for help?” he asked.
Bargnesi cited Dr. Katherine F. Maloney, Erie County’s associate chief medical examiner, who testified that the boy died from blunt impact injuries to the head, including a fractured skull, and that without rapid treatment, his chances for survival were poor.
The prosecutor also cited the bruises found on Eain’s back and shoulders, the abrasions on his hips, and injuries in and around his rectum, which were not there when his mother left the apartment.
Bargnesi noted that doctors at Women and Children’s Hospital said Eain’s body temperature was so low when he was brought there after Kuzdzal called 911 around 7:30 p.m. that he must have been injured hours earlier.
The prosecutor suggested that the boy was injured between 4 and 5 p.m., which he said coincided with the doctors’ estimate and with a lapse in Kuzdzal’s texting with friends earlier that afternoon about buying heroin.
Kuzdzal admitted at trial that he used heroin daily at the time and had shot up the morning that Eain was injured.
He also testified that he pushed Eain toward the tub before 7 p.m. and that he spent the next half-hour trying to revive Eain, before texting Brooks at 7:25 p.m. to tell her that the boy had fallen and asking her what to do. He then called 911.
Kuzdzal admitted he had lied to police and Brooks the night of the injury when he told them that Eain had fallen down the basement stairs while carrying down the laundry.
He changed his story during a Sept. 18 interview with homicide detectives after one of them showed him photos of Eain’s anal injuries. He then told them about the alleged bathtub incident and was charged with murder.
After the verdict, Robin Hart, Nora Brooks’ mother, said her grandson’s death could have been prevented. She blamed her daughter and Erie County Child Protective Services for failing to act on her complaints during the eight months before Eain’s death about Kuzdzal’s alleged abuse of the boy.
District Attorney Frank A. Sedita III rejected calls for his office to prosecute Brooks for her alleged failure to prevent the sexual assault and fatal attack on Eain.
“Ms. Brooks did not participate in the defendant’s crimes, did not assist the defendant in committing these crimes, and was not present when the crimes occurred,” he said after the verdict.
He added that she is not criminally responsible for Eain’s death and that there is not sufficient evidence that proves she committed any other crime.
He noted that Brooks cooperated in the investigation of Eain’s death and was a vital prosecution witness at the trial.