British parents sentenced to life in prison after their young son suffered ‘violent assault’
Warning: Concerning Content
A mother and father have been sentenced to life imprisonment for the murder of their young son. A judge described this as a case of “unimaginable cruelty”.
Stephen Boden, 30, and Shannon Marsden, 22, from the UK fought to get their son Finley Boden back from childcare and then abused him so severely that the 10-month-old died just over a month later.
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The couple showed no emotion as family members cried and gasps were heard in the gallery as the verdict was announced at Britain’s Derby Crown Court on Friday.
Finley, who the judge said was a lovely, happy and smiling baby, died on Christmas Day 2020.
The last few weeks of his life were hell, the court found from his injury list: 57 broken bones, 71 bruises and burns on his hand, including one that was probably caused by a lighter.
“They acted together to inflict all injuries on him, then hide him and let him die so horribly,” a relative wrote in a statement read by prosecutor Mary Prior.
“I can only call you both monsters for what you’ve done.”
Finley was taken from the marijuana-smoking couple shortly after he was born in February 2020 because social workers said he had been “severely harmed” at their run-down Chesterfield home, according to court records.
Boden was also convicted of domestic violence.
As part of her plea to a family court to return the boy, Boden described his son as “perfect” and Marsden said he was a “cuddly, burly midget.”
The court ruled that Finley could be brought back on a part-time basis and eventually full-time. There was a disagreement between the local welfare authority, who wanted a slower transition, and the guardian, who wanted the parents to be given sole custody sooner.
The couple wanted the child returned immediately, and Boden assured the court in a statement that they had “worked really hard to make changes happen.”
Boden’s attorney, Simon Kealey, said there was no “sadistic motivation” for the murder.
“This is not a case where the parents requested Finley’s return to carry out his assassination,” Kealey said. “The underlying motivation was to reunite his family.”
Once home, Finley was subjected to “vicious and repeated assaults” that eventually led to his “cruel and protracted” murder, prosecutors said. His fractures led to infections, including pneumonia and sepsis, which ended fatally.
In contrast to the photos shown to the court, which showed a tidy house when the couple filed for custody, jurors at the April trial were shown pictures of a house full of clutter, marijuana paraphernalia and spoiled baby food when Finley died. The boy’s clothes were covered with saliva and feces.
Although they saw that he was suffering, his parents did nothing to help him. The two even discouraged social workers by saying they thought he had COVID-19, even though they knew he wasn’t.
Judge Amanda Tipples called them “convincing and accomplished liars.”
“They both knew that Finley was very seriously ill and dying,” Tipples said. “Nevertheless, you deliberately refrained from seeking medical attention for him and made sure that no one could see him who could have rescued him and removed him from your care.”