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Man sentenced to 7 years for beating toddler

By Bethany Bruner • Jul 24, 2018 at 10:00 PM

NEWARK — A Pataskala man sentenced to seven years in prison Tuesday told a judge he loved the toddler he was found guilty of beating.

Skyler Fritz, 25, had been found guilty in June of two counts of endangering children and a sole count of felonious assault. He appeared for sentencing before Licking County Common Pleas Court Judge David Branstool Tuesday morning.

Fritz was found guilty of assaulting and causing severe injuries to 2-year-old Stephanie Denlinger at a Pataskala-area home. The injuries were discovered after paramedics were called to the home on Mulberry Street after Stephanie was determined to be unresponsive.

Fritz's girlfriend and the child's mother, Tiffany Denlinger, was also charged and was sentenced to four years in prison.

Court records indicate Stephanie Denlinger suffered numerous injuries, including a traumatic head injury, bruising to various areas of her body and other injuries that left her in a medically induced coma until February.

During the June hearing, the attorneys on the case had jointly recommended a six-year prison sentence to Branstool. However, Branstool wanted additional information and delayed sentencing until Tuesday's hearing.

Fritz's attorney, Diane Menashe, said she had made Fritz aware of conversations between Assistant Licking County Prosecutor Nate Hurst, Branstool and herself regarding Branstool's inclination to disregard the recommendation.

Menashe also said Fritz was aware he would likely have faced more prison time if he had decided to go to a trial.

The plea agreement Fritz had agreed to included a condition that all three charges against him merge for sentencing, limiting his potential maximum sentence to eight years.

Fritz told Branstool he was guilty and that he had thrown the child onto a bed in the home out of anger.

"I am guilty of what I am guilty of," Fritz said. "I love that little girl and I'm sorry."

Fritz denied a pattern of beating the child.

"It eats me up every day," he said. "I am deeply sorry for what happened."

Hurst said Stephanie is continuing to improve, but the full extent of her injuries and their impact won't be known until she is closer to being school-age. He said Stephanie is able to stand on her own for 10 to 15 seconds at a time, but she may never walk as one of her legs remains non-mobile.

Branstool disregarded the recommendation for the six-year prison sentence and imposed a term of seven years. He said the evidence which likely would have been presented at trial could have made additional time in prison likely.

Fritz was given 179 days of credit toward his sentence and could be eligible for early release after serving more than four years.

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