A Glenside man was sentenced to state prison Friday for beating his 12-year-old foster child with a broom to the point that the boy needed 18 stitches and multiple surgeries to fix the scar.
Claybon Hawthorne, 50, locked two of his foster children in a room in 2013 and beat them. Prosecutors said he beat the 12-year-old boy with a belt and a broomstick, grabbing another broomstick after the first one broke.
In arguing for prison time for Hawthorne, Montgomery County prosecutors displayed large posters of the children's wounds after the beatings. The photos showed a scar on the boy's face that ran the length of his cheek, a wound the shape of a belt buckle behind his ear, and welts on his arms that were "too many to count," said Cheltenham Police Detective John Barr.
"We all expected the defendant to act like a father," said Assistant District Attorney Kristen Feden. "He beat the living mess out of that kid."
Judge Wendy Demchick-Alloy sentenced Hawthorne to 2 1/2 to 10 years in state prison and five years probation for aggravated assault, unlawful restraint, and related crimes.
"You took weapons, and you hit this boy," the judge said. "You could have killed him."
Patricia Cassidy, Hawthorne's public defender, said Hawthorne "made a terrible mistake that day" but was otherwise a loving father.
Hawthorne's wife, Renee Fennell Hawthorne, was also charged in the 2013 beating. She has since died.
Several friends who testified on Hawthorne's behalf said that he loved his foster children and biological children equally and sought to adopt each foster child he took into his home.
Hawthorne, who was found guilty during a brief bench trial in June, apologized for the day that he lost control of his anger.
"I did not mean to hurt my son," Hawthorne said. "I'm not a monster."
He said the boy was "unruly" and had made purchases with his credit card. Hawthorne said he was not aware that he had made the boy's face bleed that day. But the child told police in 2013 that Hawthorne instructed him to take a shower and discard his bloody clothes after the beating. He did not receive medical attention until the following day, when a caseworker arrived at the home for a visit and noticed his injuries.
The child, now 14, sat in the back of the courtroom Friday with his aunt, who is his current guardian. He came forward so the judge could view the scar on his face, and a lawyer serving as the child's legal advocate read a statement he wrote.
When Hawthorne took him in, the boy's statement said, "It was like having a family all over again." Once the beating happened, he wrote, "It made me feel like crap."
Demchick-Alloy told the boy he was brave to appear in court. She said foster homes should serve as safety nets for vulnerable children.
"And, in fact," she told Hawthorne, "you were the opposite."