ST. JOSEPH — Brandon Beshires was sentenced Monday to life in prison without parole for the 2016 death of a baby in Coloma.

Beshires, 31, was in court after having already pleaded guilty to first-degree premeditated murder on Dec. 12. His decision to forgo a trial for the death of 8-month-old Carter Donovan, who died of severe head injuries, was met with surprise at the time.

Beshires received the mandatory penalty for first-degree murder in Michigan.

Berrien County Trial Court Judge Arthur Cotter told Beshires that upon looking at Carter’s autopsy photo, he had never seen a child’s skull so fractured in his 30 years working in the criminal justice system.

“I hope when you are in prison, and lying in your cell and you close your eyes, that image of that photograph will haunt you,” Cotter told Beshires. “It should haunt you because you’re responsible for it. Today, there will be justice in this courtroom.”

Cotter also said the photo would haunt him as well, though for different reasons.

“When I look at your record, you had lots of resisting arrests, obstruction (of justice) … five domestic violences and a prior child abuse (charge) in the fourth degree,” Cotter said. “I am haunted by that picture, because I don’t understand how our system couldn’t protect that child from you.”

Carter Donovan died on Feb. 19 last year after he was left in Beshires’ care while his mother, Autumn Atchley, went to a doctor’s appointment. Beshires was Atchley’s boyfriend at the time.

Beshires, a Benton Harbor resident, told the court on Dec. 12 that he brought Carter to the Hot Spot restaurant in Coloma while he got something to eat.

In the process of trying to change the child’s diaper, Beshires said he slammed the boy on the floor because he was angry the baby wouldn’t stop crying.

Atchley and Beshires had taken Carter to Lakeland Medical Center in St. Joseph after Atchley was finished with her doctor’s appointment on Feb. 19. The baby was pronounced dead at Lakeland.

An autopsy showed he died of severe head injuries.

When asked if he wanted to say anything before he was sentenced, Beshires spoke of regret.

“I’m just really sorry. I’ve been thinking about this every day for a year and I’m sorry. I hope everyone can have peace,” he said.

Michelle Raday, Carter’s aunt, read a prepared statement for Cotter to consider before he handed down his sentence. Raday spoke about the last time she held Carter and what his death has done to her family.

“My son, at 15 years old, has nightmares because of you,” Raday said in the direction of Beshires. “He has no idea how to heal from the hole you have created in our lives. Just like the rest of us, he has been ripped open and is struggling to understand how such a coward can even exist in the world.”

Sean Donovan, Carter’s father, spoke last and directly to Beshires, when Donovan stood in front of the courtroom.

“You did me wrong. You did my family wrong. You did my son wrong,” he said. “You’re going to pay for that, and you know that. Carter was a good boy.”

Beshires’ lawyer, Donald Sappanos, said his client’s decision to enter a guilty plea was meant to end the suffering to Carter’s family.

“He did what he thought was right at that time, and that was to stop all the proceedings,” Sappanos said. “He didn’t want to put his family or the victim’s family through any more grief.”

The baby’s mother, Autumn Atchley, has pleaded no contest to a charge of being an accessory after the fact, a five-year felony. She had also been scheduled for sentencing by Cotter on Monday.

However, Atchley’s case was adjourned because she has a new attorney. A courthouse official confirmed she is due in court on Feb. 6.

Atchley was charged with being an accessory after the fact because police say she initially lied to police about who the baby had been with earlier.

Contact:, 932-0358, Twitter: @TonyWittkowski