LANCASTER — Garrard Circuit Judge Hunter Daugherty heard it from both sides Friday before deciding the fate of Tyler Brock.
Brock’s attorney, Gary Crabtree, painted an idyllic picture of his client as valedictorian and star athlete at his high school who had completed 3 1⁄2 years of college with high marks and had designs on becoming a game warden or park ranger. Brock never had been arrested, Crabtree said, and has “tremendous support of family and friends” back in Laurel County, many of whom were in the courtroom.
“We’re talking about one day in his life that was an aberration,” Crabtree told Daugherty.
That “one day” was June 12, 2011, when Brock repeatedly beat and kicked severely handicapped Shaun Akridge, 35, to death inside a group home in Paint Lick where Akridge was a resident and Brock worked as a “caregiver.”
Brock, 22, pleaded guilty last month to second-degree manslaughter in Akridge’s death and appeared Friday before Daugherty for sentencing, with 20 years the punishment recommended by Commonwealth’s Attorney Tom Lockridge. Crabtree argued that Brock’s sentence should be probated based on his otherwise storybook life, saying “the community would understand probation” in this case.
But Akridge’s brother, Wayne Akridge, provided the judge with a different perspective on Brock, calling him “a vicious animal who was supposed to protect my brother from harm.”
Wayne Akridge said his brother — who functioned at the level of a 7-year-old after being damaged in the womb by fetal alcohol poisoning and spent his adult life institutionalized — suffered in pain for four hours before he died while Brock took steps to cover his crime. Brock initially told police that another resident of the home had killed Shaun Akridge in a fight.
“First he tried to hide it and then he blamed it on another person. This shows no remorse,” Wayne Akridge said.
Wayne Akridge said autopsy results showed Shaun Akridge had injuries dating back a month before he died. Brock’s relentless beating of his brother was “no different than beating a child until he dies,” he told Daugherty.
Beginning his deliberation on the bench, the judge said, “This is one of those cases that defies explanation.”
While agreeing with Crabtree’s assessment that Brock didn’t need “correctional treatment,” Daugherty said granting probation would undermine the seriousness of the crime in the mind of the public.
“This offense is so heinous most of us can’t understand how you could do something like this,” Daugherty told Brock, who remained silent and stone-faced throughout the proceeding. “There’s a pattern of conduct where you treated him almost like a punching bag.”
After Daugherty imposed the 20-year sentence, Brock, who has been free on bond since September, was taken into custody as his family members, many in tears, filed from the courtroom.
Outside, Wayne Akridge said he was pleased with the sentence, even though Brock will be eligible for his first parole hearing in four years.
As administrator of his brother’s estate, Wayne Akridge, who lives in Bullitt County, has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Brock and Community Ties of America, which operated the group home in Paint Lick.
Akridge said his brother had spent about 10 years at the state-operated Oakwood facility in Somerset before being transferred to the group home in Paint Lick.
Shaun Akridge was sometimes given to violent episodes at Oakwood, his brother said, questioning the wisdom of moving him to a home operated by the for-profit Community Ties, where staffing and supervision was much more lax.
“He really liked trucks, fast cars and music,” Akridge said of his brother. “He was happy if he could get those things, but he was unhappy if he couldn’t and there was some trouble. But he was loved, he was a good person. Some of the people who worked with him at Oakwood came to his funeral.”
Akridge said he never learned what caused Brock to attack his brother that day.
“All I know is that they were coming in from an outdoor activity and something happened and Shaun ended up down on all fours and he just started kicking him in the abdomen. Another employee saw it happening and just ran away,” he said.
Akridge said Brock has never apologized for his actions and said he felt that Brock and his party thought Shaun was somehow less than human because of his diminished mental capacity.
“It seems to me they are, like, ‘It was one day, it happened, now everyone needs to forget about it and move on with their lives,’” he said. “But Shaun has a family that loved him, too.”