With both sides of the audience furious over the length of the sentence, a federal judge Friday sentenced Garrett "Kirby" LaFromboise to 13 years and 4 months in prison followed by 4 years of supervised release for assault on a child.
U.S. District Judge Brian Morris said LaFromboise's behavior in the death of his son, 11-month-old Kaidynce Small, was "unforgivable."
Morris said any man can father a child.
"The most important role a father has is to protect his child," Morris said before pronouncing the sentence.
In a tearful reading of her letter to the judge during the hearing, the victim's mother, Jasmine Small, said she trusted Kirby LaFromboise to care for their son and that she thought he loved him as much as he did his two daughters with Cecilia Rose Gardipee.
"He lied to me," she read from her letter, saying he told her the toddler fell off the bed.
But before he was sentenced, LaFromboise responded to that, saying he did love Kaidynce as much as he loves his daughters.
"I loved Kaidynce with all my heart, and that's no lie. ... I think about Kaidynce every day. I pray to him and ask him for forgiveness," LaFromboise said, sobbing. "I love him and miss him every day.
"... I'm so ashamed of myself," he said. "I'm sorry.
Federal marshals waited outside of the Missouri River Federal Courthouse after the hearing, keeping the two families - nearly 50 people came to attend the hearing - separate, with the Small family kept inside until LaFromboise's family left. Even so, a relative of LaFromboise driving by yelled at the Small family after they came outside, resulting in curses from both sides.
LaFromboise pleaded guilty Jan. 21 in a plea agreement to assault resulting in bodily injury or aiding and abetting in the assault of Kaidynce Oct. 21, less than two weeks before the child's first birthday, while he and his girlfriend, Cecilia Gardipee, cared for the child in their apartment. Under the plea agreement, a charge of murder or aiding and abetting in murder will be dismissed.
LaFromboise admitted to becoming frustrated when he and Gardipee could not stop Kaidynce from crying and to sticking his fingers down the toddler's throat and hitting him in the abdomen.
Gardipee's trial on the murder and assault charges is set for June 23.
The medical examiner's report said the toddler's injuries included skull fractures, rib fractures, bruising on his lips, bruising on his face and torso, cuts on his fingertips, and bleeding and bruising on his brain and spinal nerves.
Morris said while asking if LaFromboise was maintaining his plea - after his parents said he never would have injured his own son - that people making statements on one side were saying he was completely innocent while the other side said he deserved life in prison.
"The truth must be somewhere in the middle," Morris said.
The death of Kaidynce came just months after LaFromboise started caring for his son in a custody arrangement with Small.
He fathered two daughters with Gardipee, the first while he was a junior in high school - his parents stated that he continued to excel in school and was a good father even having a child at such a young age - then broke up with her and was in a relationship with Small before going back to be with Gardipee.
Small read from her letter that LaFromboise had no involvement with Kaidynce until a paternity test proved he was the father, when the boy was about 8½ months old.
She read that she wishes every day she would have kept her son or picked him up that day, to keep him safe.
"All I know is that I have to wake up with the sad and hurtful truth every day that I will never see my son again just because these two monsters have chosen to harm my 11-month-old baby boy because he wouldn't quit crying ... ," Small read from her letter.
"Even if I have another child, this hole in my heart will never be filled," she read.
The sentencing came at the end of a nearly 2½ hour hearing that included statements from LaFromboise's parents, Loranda Gopher LaFromboise and Joe LaFromboise Jr., and statements from Jasmine Small and members of her family.
Morris interrupted tearful, sobbing testimony from Small and members of her family to allow them to collect themselves, saying the court wanted everyone to be able to hear what they had to say.
Joe and Loranda LaFromboise said in court and after the hearing that their son did not injure his child, with Joe LaFromboise saying his son was "extorted" into pleading guilty by the federal investigator and Laranda LaFromboise saying he is protecting Gardipee.
Loranda LaFromboise said after the hearing that Gardipee is the one who should have been in the courtroom for sentencing Friday.
"He didn't hurt his son," she said.
Joe LaFromboise Jr., left, wife Laranda, center, and an aunt of Kirby LaFrombois who declined to give her name, right, wait outside the Great Falls Federal Couthouse Friday.
Joe LaFromboise said while making his statement during the hearing that his son could not have injured Kaidynce and was pressured into pleading guilty. His son needs help and drug and alcohol treatment, not life in prison or even 10 years for not stopping someone else from hurting the child, LaFromboise said.
"This boy's got too big of a heart to do anything like that, and everybody knows that," Joe LaFromboise said. "... I can say it over and over. He's in a life sentence already for what he didn't do."
Warren Small, Jasmine Small's father, who could barely speak over sobs to give his statement in the court, said the opposite. In the hearing and afterward, he said only life in prison was enough time for Kirby LaFromboise to spend in prison.
"I feel like I'm a victim of the federal government," he said after the hearing.
He said that Joe and Loranda LaFromboise still can visit and talk to their son.
"What do we have," Small asked. "We have memories. We'll never get to see our baby."