A Connecticut father was sentenced Wednesday to 70 years in prison without parole for throwing his 7-month-old child from a bridge two years ago, an act that the judge called “heinous,” according to multiple reports.
“The utter depravity of the crime — a father killing his infant son — speaks for itself,” Superior Court Judge Elpedio N. Vitale said at the hearing, according to The Hartford Courant.
Tony Moreno, 23, was found guilty in February of murder and risk of injury to a child in the death of his son, Aaden, on the night of July 5, 2015. Jurors rejected Moreno’s defense that Aaden slipped through his arms and fell about 100 feet into the Connecticut River from the Arrigoni Bridge in Middletown, Connecticut.
Prosecutors argued instead that Moreno had acted in retaliation after the boy’s mother, Adrianne Oyola, broke off their relationship. Moreno testified that he was suicidal when he went with their son to the bridge and the boy’s fall was an accident.
Kayakers found Aaden’s body two days later, about 14 miles down-river. An autopsy showed he suffered a skull fracture and drowned.
Moreno jumped from the bridge after dropping Aaden, authorities and witnesses have said, but he was rescued from the water shortly afterward.
The sentence dealt to Moreno includes 60 years for his son’s murder and 10 years on the conviction for risk of injury, reports local TV station WFSB.
“Not only did you violently and intentionally kill your 7-month-old son, but you taunted his mother as you committed the act with text messages that were aptly described as ‘demonic’ — just so you could add to her unfathomable grief,” Judge Vitale said at the sentencing, according to The Middletown Press.
“There was no way to know what your son was feeling or experiencing at the point he went into the water,” Vitale said.
“The overwhelming evidence demonstrated that you intentionally [threw] Aaden off that bridge to kill him, and that you succeeded, and that you did so to exact revenge on Ms. Oyola,” he said.
Moreno had testified that his intent that night was to kill himself, and he carried a knife with him to do so. After a dinner out with friends, he said, he went home to pack his son’s stroller, woke him up and then left with Aaden about 11 p.m. for a walk that ended on the bridge. Along the way, he pointed out landmarks that included the movie theater where the boy’s parents had shared their first kiss.
But prosecutors and the judge focused on texts Moreno sent to Oyola during a darkening argument.
“You won’t talk to me tomorrow or any other day,” Moreno wrote. “Enjoy your new life without us.”
Later, Oyola texted him, “Where’s aaden?”
Moreno responded: “He’s dead. And soon I will be too.”
Moreno did not speak at his sentencing.
“Now Aaden can rest in peace knowing that justice is served,” Oyola said outside the court on Wednesday, reading from a brief statement, according to the Courant.
“Please continue to respect my privacy while I continue to mourn my son,” she said. “Please keep Aaden in your prayers and thoughts.”
She also spoke at the sentencing, according to the Courant, saying, “I still remember what it felt like to hold him [Aaden]. Most of all, I remember the cuddles, the kisses, the love.”
Of Moreno, she said, “You took my whole world from me.”
“Every time I wake up, I pray the nightmare will be over and my son will be in my arms,” she said. “Just know I tried to forgive you, but that’s impossible.”
Prosecutors echoed Oyola’s statement after the sentencing, describing it as justice served for Aaden and hailing his mother’s bravery.
While Oyola thanked the judge for handing Moreno the maximum penalty, his defense attorney tells PEOPLE it is excessive.
“Whatever happened that night in a few brief seconds on the Arrigoni Bridge does not justify a 70-year sentence,” attorney Norman Pattis says. “The result is obscene.”
“We were concerned that a jury would think that by going to trial, he [Moreno] was denying responsibility for his son’s death,” Pattis says. “He accepted full responsibility for it, but he didn’t intend to kill his son.”
Pattis says Moreno will appeal, adding that jurors were not allowed to hear Moreno’s offer to plead guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and serve 25 years.
Prosecutors had offered a deal requiring Moreno to plead guilty to murder and serve 50 years, Pattis says.
“That’s no plea at all.”