Former Dover Air Force Base airman gets probation in toddler’s death

Justin K. Corbett

Justin K. Corbett

DOVER — A former Dover Air Force Base airman convicted of criminally negligent homicide after a toddler’s death while in his care in 2012 will serve no further prison time provided he follows probation requirements, according to a sentence ordered on Thursday afternoon.

Justin K. Corbett, 28, received credit for 31 days of incarceration, and an eight-year prison sentence was suspended in Kent County Superior Court.

He received 18 months of intensive Level III probation as well, ordered to take an anger management class and pay for the cost of the trial, according to Judge Robert B. Young.

The sentence came before about 50 spectators in the courtroom, many of which were friends and family of Corbett and also the late infant Evan’s mother Nicole “Nikki” Dudley.

The younger Dudley, 21 months old at the time, died four days after suffering injuries at Corbett’s residence on Nov. 3, 2012.

Ms. Dudley, a sergeant, was on an Air Force deployment in Qatar at the time, and Corbett’s wife had been designated as a secondary caregiver for her son.

Evan Dudley suffered seven separate wounds under the scalp and injuries to the top of his head, jaw, nose, cheek, forehead, thigh and elbow, retinal hemorrhages to both eyes, and one detached retina.

Corbett was not immediately available for comment as he began processing for his probation status. His lawyer William Deely said his initial reaction was “Oh thank God.”

Judge Young said Corbett’s lack of a previous criminal record and exemplary service during eight years in the Air Force was considered in the sentencing.

Though the judge received a flood of e-mails and letters supporting both Corbett and Ms. Dudley, he noted that none had access to all the information put before the jury.

Corbett had not seen his three children in two years, ordered to have no contact with anyone under 18 years old as the case proceeded.

While the prosecution maintained that the death was due to child abuse, Mr. Corbett said the boy fell down a flight of stairs when he was unattended at the apartment.

Speaking before the Court, Corbett described his actions as “unintentional” and acknowledged that he couldn’t begin to understand the pain that Ms. Dudley suffered in losing her son.

“I will bear this burden for the rest of my life,” he said.

Before that, Ms. Dudley spoke of her shattered life since losing her son, describing herself as “broken, empty and numb” and robbed of enjoying any future milestones her son would have reached.

“It rips through your heart,” she said, noting that she can’t sleep more than three hours at a time due to the lingering stress associated with her only son’s death.

Corbett maintained that the boy accidentally fell down a set of stairs after being left alone briefly with another child.

The prosecution sought eight years prison time as the sentence and the defense asked for probation.

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