Child killer Mark Allen Vanderhoof’s silence made the mother of his victim gasp.
Convicted of abusing to death a 2-year-old boy and facing the prospect of spending the rest of his life in prison, Vanderhoof, 53, of Lookingglass declined to speak at his sentencing Monday.
“I wanted him to talk,” said the victim’s mother, Brianna Snow. “It’s a slap in the face. It’s like he’s saying we don’t deserve to know what happened.”
Vanderhoof didn’t testify at his four-day trial last month in Douglas County Circuit Court, after which Judge Ronald Poole found him guilty in the Jan. 26, 2011, death of Dennis Young.
On Monday, Poole sentenced Vanderhoof to a life sentence, though with the possibility of parole after 25 years.
Vanderhoof initially told investigators Dennis fell from a porch, though Vanderhoof later said he pushed the toddler to the ground in response to the boy playing roughly with his dog. Paramedics who responded to Vanderhoof’s home in Lookingglass found the victim wet and unclothed at the foot of a bed inside the house. Investigators and medical workers doubted Vanderhoof’s story almost immediately.
Snow said she visited Vanderhoof in jail once, and he stuck to his story that Dennis fell from the porch.
At the sentencing hearing, Poole heard from Snow and Snow’s mother, Denise Barger.
“How did this happen?” Barger asked. “I will never know for sure, but I do not believe any of the scenarios given in court.
“The only thing I know for sure is that I have lost my grandson, I have lost my daughter and I have lost my ability to trust people,” she said.
Poole convicted Vanderhoof of murder by abuse and murder through extreme indifference to human life. He also must pay $12,660.09 in restitution.
The charge of murder by abuse required prosecutors to prove past episodes of abusive behavior. Deputy District Attorney Kathleen Johnson brought up Vanderhoof’s two prior convictions for abusing the children of his girlfriends.
One conviction was for sexually abusing a 4-year-old girl.
An ex-girlfriend also testified that Vanderhoof spent two days terrorizing her and her daughter in his house in 1985. The woman said he became enraged when the girl refused to eat her peas.
Though they had been a couple for only a few months at the time of Dennis’ death, Snow testified he seemed to them to be a good father figure to the boy.
She said following the trial that during their relationship, Vanderhoof lied to her about his past. She said he admitted he’d been in prison, but claimed it was for consensual sex with an underage person.
Snow said she doubts he was ever beaten as a child, as he told investigators.
Defense attorney Don Scales said Vanderhoof plans to appeal Judge Poole’s ruling that Vanderhoof displayed “extreme indifference to human life.”
Dennis’ organs were donated after his death. He would have turned 5 on May 29.
• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.