Ferrysburg child abuser gets up to 10 years

Becky Vargo • Jul 21, 2015 at 12:07 PM

Justin McIntyre, 23, stood quietly as he was told that he was going behind bars from 18 months to 10 years. He was given credit for already serving 157 days in jail.

Kaylee Zalsman, McIntyre's former girlfriend and Bentley's mother, wiped tears from her eyes as she waited for McIntyre to be sentenced for shaking and seriously injuring their baby.

“Kaylee’s a mess,” said her mom, Patti VanOmmen, after the court hearing. “Her dream … of that home with a white picket fence … is gone.”

VanOmmen said her 19-year-old daughter is busy with a seemingly endless series of doctor visits for the baby.

“Bentley will be hurt the rest of his life,” the grandmother said. “I was hoping for (a longer sentence), but it’s out of my hands at this point.”

McIntyre averted his eyes after entering the courtroom. He sat with his handcuffed hands clasped as he waited for the judge to hand down his sentence.

When asked if he had anything to say, McIntyre quietly spoke, “I’m sorry.”

His attorney, Joe Legatz, asked for probation, suggesting that it was “the appropriate sentence" for his client.

Justin’s mother, Marlene McIntyre, said that was what she was expecting.

“I didn’t think that he was going to get prison,” she said.

Marlene said her son cried every time they visited him in jail.

“He didn’t mean it,” she said of the baby being shook. “He didn’t think that it would hurt him.”

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Justin McIntyre was arrested in the early morning of Aug. 24, 2012, after he and some other members of his Ferrysburg household took Bentley, then 5 weeks old, to North Ottawa Community Hospital. The baby was later flown by helicopter to Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital in Grand Rapids, where his life was touch and go for a few weeks.

After being interrogated by police, McIntyre was charged with first-degree child abuse.

In a bench trial in December, it was revealed that McIntyre had taken over care of his child after a long day at work. Zalsman was at work at the time.

In a videotaped police interview, McIntyre demonstrated how he had shaken Bentley when the baby wouldn’t stop crying. The young father said he also cried out in frustration.

Other members of the household checked on him after hearing those cries and found the baby nearly lifeless.

VanOmmen said the front lobes of Bentley’s brain were destroyed in the incident.

Although the baby has recuperated physically, the family said they won't know the full extent of his injuries until whether or not he passes each childhood milestone.

Bentley is now 6 months old and weighs nearly 16 pounds, VanOmmen said.

“He’s slowly starting to sit up and he’s eating a ton of baby food,” she said. “As a matter of fact, he said his first words today — ‘baba (bottle).'"

Despite the improvements, the child still has to be seen a lot by doctors and therapists.

“Kaylee still can’t work at this point," VanOmmen said. "She can’t go to school.”

VanOmmen said anyone wanting to help may connect her through the Go Fund page on the "Prayers for Bentley" Facebook page.

She said the family is thankful for all the prayers and support they have received over the past few months.

In turn, they are hoping to help others avoid a similar situation. VanOmmen said she and other family members and friends will be participating in the Million March Against Child Abuse in April in Grand Rapids. She said they will be wearing their "Prayers for Bentley" T-shirts.

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