A Suitland man was sentenced to 50 years in prison Friday afternoon for the killing of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son.
Clifton Bernard, 26, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and child abuse in December for the 2013 death of Jamir Shipe. Bernard became angry with the boy and rammed the toddler’s head into drywall, causing severe injuries that led to his death a day later, prosecutors said.
Prince George’s County State’s Attorney Angela Alsobrooks said the sentence was just, given a 150-pound man took a 34-pound boy and bashed the child’s head though a wall.
“This is a case that is so senseless,” Alsobrooks said.
Bernard was diagnosed with a mental illness after he was arrested in Jamir’s death, Alsobrooks said. But after the boy’s beating, Bernard had moved furniture around in the apartment to hide an indentation the child’s head left in the wall, indicating he knew what he was doing, Alsobrooks said.
“He wasn’t completely out of his mind,” Alsobrooks said.
Bernard’s sentencing comes the same week that Alsobrooks announced that her office has opened a new family violence and special victims’ unit.
The unit combines the office’s domestic violence unit and team focused on child abuse and sexual assault to better streamline the prosecution of cases involving family violence.
Prince George’s County officials have been looking for ways to reduce family and domestic violence after a surge of such cases last year. Of the 56 homicides reported in 2014 in Prince George’s, 19 were domestic-related, and seven of them involved victims younger than 4.
Combining the units was an important move as prosecutors found that domestic abuse between adults often involves abuse of children as well, Alsobrooks said.
“The units will now communicate even more seamlessly than they ever have,” Alsobrooks said. “It is a targeted effort to do what we can to strengthen families.”