‘Nothing will ever justify this’: Man stands emotionless when found guilty of disabling son

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YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – It only took jurors about an hour on Thursday to decide that a local father was guilty of abusing his child.

Eric Pendland has been charged with shaking his then-infant son so violently two years ago, that the boy is now blind and permanently disabled.

"We the jury find the defendant Eric Pendland guilty of endangering children," said Mahoning County Common Pleas Judge Anthony Donofrio.

As the verdict was read, the courtroom was full of emotion. But, Pendland stood emotionless, blankly staring across the room.

Prosecutors embraced in a tear-filled hug as Pendland was quickly put in handcuffs and led away by sheriff's deputies — the trial took an emotional toll on them as well.

"This baby was three months old, and for him to have sustained these types of injuries and now his life is just destroyed, and it's just… This was a bad one," said Mahoning County Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer McLaughlin.

"We feel that even though he may not know it, he did get some type of justice today in this court," said Mahoning County Assistant Prosecutor Steve Yacovone.

Prosecutors say it was in March of 2017 when Pendland shook his son so violently, he was left with permanent brain damage.

Their case was backed by doctors and specialists at Akron Children's Hospital in Boardman who treated the boy and testified during the trial.

"All odds were that he was going to pass away, and we elicited that testimony that he is now permanently disabled — he can't see, he can't hear, he'll be on a feeding tube the rest of his life. So to be able to get some small justice for him is the best thing that we could do," McLaughlin said.

The 2-year-old is now in the custody of Mahoning County Children Services and is being cared for by a foster family that is suited to handle the special care he needs.

"No matter what, nothing will ever justify this," said Hannah Schulte, a long-time family friend.

Schulte burst into tears as she talked about the life she had envisioned for the little boy, saying his father deserves to be behind bars for what he was found guilty of.

"He didn't deserve this. I watched him come out of his mom. He won't ever have a normal life, but now he can have a good life. There's a lot of people who love you and will always be there for you, know that your life is important and your life has value," she said.

After Thursday's verdict, Judge Donofrio immediately revoked Pendland's bond.

He now faces up to 11 years in prison once he's sentenced.

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