Convicted child killer sentenced to prison

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Pictured: Robert Stivers Pictured: Robert Stivers

TAYLORVILLE, Ill. (WAND)- A Pana man convicted of killing his four-month-old son has been sentenced to fifty years in prison.

A Christian County judged delivered the sentence for Robert Stivers at a hearing Thursday afternoon. Earlier this year, a jury convicted Stivers of First Degree Murder in the 2016 death of his son Carter Livingston.

At the time, police said hospital workers reported obvious signs of bruising, healing-fractured ribs and swelling on the child’s brain.

“You murdered a defenseless four-month-old baby, your flesh and blood … because he wouldn’t quit crying,” the judge told Stivers before a packed gallery.

At one point, seven sheriff’s deputies stood in the courtroom. Several people in the courtroom wore T-shirts reading “Free Rob.”

While arguing for the maximum sentence of 60 years, State’s Attorney Mike Havera first introduced the child’s mother, Breanna Livingston, who read from a prepared statement.

“Every good moment I’ll ever have in my life will be affected by this,” Livingston said. “I lost my son and my kids lost their baby brother.”

Livingston also said she has been publicly humiliated by people who blame her for the child’s death.

Havera then played a portion of investigators’ interview with Stivers at a St. Louis hospital after Carter was airlifted there from Pana. In the video, Stivers explained the child had been crying.

“I picked him up … patted him on the back … and got a little aggravated,” Stivers said. “I gave him a little squeeze.”

The video then showed Stivers squeezing and shaking a doll to demonstrate how he had handled Carter.

Later, Stivers appears to cry and tells investigators “I would never intentionally hurt one of my kids.”

Still later in the video, Stivers asks investigators what they think he will be charged with. An investigator off-camera can be heard saying “I don’t believe it qualifies as First Degree Murder.”

Finally, Stivers asks officers to allow him to see his son “when he goes.”

“I just want to go say goodbye to my boy, give him a kiss on the forehead,” Stivers says.

Stivers’ defense called four people to the stand.

One longtime friend said she never saw Stivers act violently. She also said Stivers often babysat her young children.

“My kids loved him,” she said.

Another woman described Stivers as “a very loving person.”

Stivers’s 30-year-old brother said he saw Stivers with Carter almost every day.

“Carter was his everything,” he said.

When cross-examined by Havera, Stivers’s brother admitted he was present when family members called police to Stivers’s father’s house.

In his arguments, Havera suggested a severe sentence was necessary to prevent others from abusing children.

“Christian County’s seen a rise in child abuse cases,” Havera said.

In his arguments, Stivers’s defense attorney Gregory Grigsby pointed to the investigator’s taped statement that Stivers’s case might not warrant First Degree Murder charges. Further, Grigsby argued that “there’s no indication whatever (Stivers) did, he did out of malice.” Grigsby suggested the minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Before reading the sentence, the judge told those in the gallery that he would not tolerate any outbursts in court or any misconduct outside the courthouse.

“This is a case of selfishness, rather than selflessness,” the judge told Stivers.

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