An English couple who fought to get their baby son back from child services and then abused him so severely the 10-month-old was dead just over a month later were sentenced to life in prison for murder Friday in what a judge described as a case of “unimaginable cruelty.”
Stephen Boden, 30, and Shannon Marsden, 22, showed no emotion as family members wept and a gasp sounded in the gallery when the sentence was handed down in Derby Crown Court.
Finley Boden, who the judge said had been a lovely, happy, smiley baby, died on Christmas day 2020.
The final weeks of his life were hell, based on his catalog of injuries: 57 bone fractures, 71 bruises, and burns on his hand, including one probably caused by a cigarette lighter.
As part of their plea to a family court to return the boy, Boden described the tot as “perfect” and Marsden said he was a “cuddly, chunky munchkin.”
The court decided to allow him to be returned on a part-time basis and, eventually, full-time. There had been a disagreement between the local social work authority that wanted a slower transition and the guardian, who wanted the parents to get full custody sooner.
The couple wanted the boy to be returned promptly and Boden assured the court in a statement they had “worked really hard to make changes.”
Unlike the photos shown to the court of a tidy house when the couple were seeking custody, jurors at the trial in April were shown images of home full of clutter, marijuana paraphernalia and spoiled baby formula when Finley died. The boy’s clothes were covered in his saliva and feces.
Even as they could see he was suffering, his parents did nothing to help. The two even kept social workers at bay by saying they thought he had COVID-19, though they knew that wasn’t true.
Justice Amanda Tipples called them “persuasive and accomplished liars.”