WARNING: This story discusses graphic content, including the death of a small child.
Evander Wilson held his baby boy close.
“Daddy’s sorry,” he said.
What he was sorry for, wasn’t entirely clear.
Perhaps it was because he’d just pulled Jakobi’s mother across the lounge by her hair while in a fit of rage over a missing soft drink. Or maybe it was because he’d repeatedly shaken his son during a violent outburst in a desperate bid to stop him crying.
The latter would leave Jakobi dead, his mother broken, and a young family torn apart.
The extent of Wilson’s violent acts were laid bare in Victoria’s Supreme Court this week.
Here’s the story of what happened that night.
The pizza order
Jakobi’s cries cut through the noise of the Incredible Hulk blaring from the television in the lounge of his parents’ home in regional Victoria on April 11, 2020.
The six-month-old wasn’t usually a crier.
He had just been disturbed by his father’s violent outburst over a bungled pizza order and missing bottle of soft drink.
Moments earlier nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
The young family had gathered in the lounge of their Mildura home where Wilson’s partner Chelsea Smith nursed their son Jakobi on her lap while his older sister played on the floor nearby.
Camera IconEvander Wilson was sentenced on Tuesday. Credit: Supplied
Ms Smith had just ordered some pizza and a bottle of soft drink but when the food arrived the drink was missing.
This sent Wilson “into some sort of rage”. He grabbed Ms Smith by the hair and dragged her across the lounge before punching her in the ribs and stomach.
Jakobi, who was sitting in a car seat on the lounge room floor, started crying. Wilson picked him up, but he continued to cry.
Ms Smith tried desperately to get Wilson to hand their son over to her. She could see he was fuming, but he didn’t listen.
He shook Jakobi, before bouncing him up and down on his legs without supporting his head, which at one point hit his knee.
Jakobi was still crying when Wilson returned him to his car seat.
Ms Smith tried to give him a bottle which he refused so she gave him his dummy which he spat out.
The six-month-old boy then fell silent. His eyes closed.
Wilson picked his son up “gently”.
“Daddy’s sorry,” he told his son.
But Jakobi went limp and all colour drained from his face and body, prompting Ms Smith to phone for an ambulance.
Camera IconThe Supreme Court heard Jakobi died from head injuries. NCA NewsWire / Penny Stephens Credit: News Corp Australia
Justice Elizabeth Hollingwood told the Supreme Court Jakobi would “gasp for air” every now and again as paramedics worked desperately to save him.
Despite their efforts, Jakobi was declared dead about 45 minutes later at Mildura Base Hospital.
Further investigations revealed he had died from traumatic head injuries.
The blame game
Wilson’s lack of remorse came into question when he was probed by police. He made no comment when interviewed by detectives five days after Jakobi’s death.
It took more than two weeks for Ms Smith to gain the courage to tell police what had happened that night which eventually led to Wilson’s arrest in June 2020.
He pleaded guilty to child homicide but had earlier tried to blame Ms Smith for Jakobi’s death and claimed he only took the blame as a means to protect her.
“Chelsea dropped the baby, it was Chelsea who harmed the baby,” Wilson was accused of saying, the court heard.
He also sent a series of abusive messages to Ms Smith, threatening her with violence when he got out of prison.
“Your behaviour in making those statements and threats was cowardly and disgusting, and inconsistent with any genuine remorse at that particular time,” Justice Hollingworth said.
Camera IconJakobi was six-months-old when he died. 7 News Credit: Supplied
A life of crime
Wilson’s teenage life was marred by family violence, inconsistent schooling, jail time and homelessness.
He started using cannabis at the age of nine and drinking alcohol at aged 10. When he was 15 he began using ice, which he was using heavily around the time of Jakobi’s death.
Justice Hollingworth said he had a lack of stability in his life.
He moved back and forth between family members, living between Mildura and communities in northwestern NSW.
His mother was also a drug addict, the court was told.
“She was unable to provide a stable environment for Mr Wilson,” Justice Hollingworth said.
And his father was in and out of prison.
Wilson met his partner Chelsea Smith in March 2018. Young and in love the pair moved in together later that year.
Their first child, Jakobi’s older sister, was born in January 2019.
Jakobi was born prematurely in October that year and spent several months in hospital.
For a while things were good.
Fairytale ripped apart
Ms Smith gave a heartbreaking witness statement to Victoria’s Supreme Court which described how Jakobi’s death tore her family apart.
“I was so scared that I was going to have flashbacks and nightmares of the night I lost my son,” she said.
“The night I lost Jakobi will haunt me forever.
Camera IconThe family was living in Mildura, in regional Victoria, at the time of the incident. Google Earth Credit: Supplied
“I’ll miss seeing him take his first steps. I’ll never be able to hear him talk, never be able to watch him grow up with his big sister and watch them grow together, and never get to take him to his first day of school.
“My fairytale of being a family has been ripped apart.”
Justice Hollingworth handed down her sentence in Mildura’s Supreme Court on Tuesday, saying Wilson had an inability to control his violent outbursts.
“You killed your six-month-old son Jakobi by holding him under his arms, shaking, bouncing him, causing fatal injuries,” she told the court.
“Your inability to control your violent response increased the importance of community protection.”
She accepted Wilson didn’t mean to hurt his son and made a genuine effort to save him.
Wilson and Ms Smith were not handling Victoria’s first lockdown well. He had taken to drugs and was playing Xbox as a coping mechanism.
“You got angry over the trivial matter of a missing bottle of soft drink,” Justice Hollingworth said.
Wilson was sentenced to eight years and six months between bars, with a non-parole period of five years and six months.
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