'Disciplined to Death': Florissant Man Will Serve 22 Years for Killing Girlfriend's 3-Year-Old

The man was babysitting the child when he killed him.

Florissant resident Zachary Thomas Cook was sentenced to 22 years in prison in the death of his girlfriend’s 3-year-old son on Thursday, according to a report from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The crime occurred in 2011.

As Patch reported in 2011, on May 5, police responded to a report of an injury to a child in the 2400 block of Blue Heron in Florissant. The child suffered a head injury and was taken to St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where he died from his injuries on May 8.

The police investigation revealed that the child sustained the injuries after being shaken.

The three-year-old as well as another young child were in the care of Cook at the time of the incident, according to Sgt. Kevin Boschert of the Florissant Police Department.

Cook pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and abuse of a child resulting in death. His lawyer said he had a “short fuse” and lacked parenting skills.

Cook’s attorney, David Ferman, said the man had been babysitting Austin while his mother was out. The boy kept running outside into traffic, so Cook brought him into the house and “tossed him onto a time-out couch.”

But police said the child was thrown across the room and onto the floor.

"He lost it," Ferman told the Post. "He was very nervous and upset (Austin) would be hit by a car. And instead, he disciplined him to death, in his own house, by his own hand."

Cook’s attorney added that the man considered himself Austin’s father, and that the boy looked like Cook—but his obituary lists another man as the father and police say Cook is not the biological father.

Thursday morning, Cook was sentenced to 22 years for each count, with the sentences to run concurrently.

Post reporter Kim Bell noted that Austin’s grandmother told the court after sentencing that the boy was running across the street because he was afraid of Cook—but Cook’s attorney denied that allegation.

Colleen Hoette November 09, 2012 at 05:36 PM
22 years is not nearly enough. I just hope his years in prison will be miserable, painful and lonely!
E. Holloway November 10, 2012 at 01:10 AM
I have to agree with you Colleen. I'll bet though he will be parolled long before his twenty-two years are up.
Angela Atkinson November 12, 2012 at 06:48 AM
I agree with you both. I don't understand how 22 years (especially considering parole possibilities) equals a human life--any human life, but most especially an innocent child.
Rachel G November 13, 2012 at 09:54 PM
I thought he was getting 22 years 4 each count. So, that would be 44 years right. I have never known zach 2 b violent but I guess u dont always see everything.


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