published Friday, July 18th, 2014

Ex-soldier, Tennessee woman sentenced to life in prison in toddler's death

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. — A former Fort Campbell soldier and a Tennessee woman have been sentenced life in prison after being convicted of beating to death a toddler.

The Leaf-Chronicle reported that the one-time soldier, 26-year-old Joshua Starner, and his ex-wife, 26-year-old Caitlyn Metz of Clarksville, each maintain their innocence in the death of their son, 23-month-old Keegan Metz. Keegan died from multiple blunt force trauma injuries on Feb. 7, 2009. A judge sentenced them on Thursday in Clarksville.

In May, a Montgomery County jury found Metz and Starner of two counts of felony murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect.

Starner and Metz also received 15-year sentences for abuse and neglect charges.

It was originally believed Metz left Keegan with Starner at their apartment for two hours while going to the store. Keegan was in good health and doing well when she left, but when she returned, Keegan was unresponsive in his bed.

He was taken to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital in Nashville where he died

Prosecutor Robert Nash said Keegan's injuries were so severe that the blood flow and oxygen to his brain and been cut off.

"... It was a two-day period of beating this 2-year-old child to death. No one stops the other. No one calls for help, and they continue to beat him for two days," Nash said. "This child didn't have a chance."

Metz, who gave birth to a baby boy following her jury trial, said she thinks about Keegan constantly and denied hurting him or her other two children.

"Every day in my mind I replay me holding my son's hand as the doctors perform the last test and pronounce my son dead," Metz said. "The emotional pain and sadness I experienced in that hospital, I still feel today. My son is part of my world and will forever be."

Starner said the death of Keegan changed his life and that he loved his son. Starner said he became suicidal and grieved deeply the first few months he was in jail. He spoke about finding God and his study of the Bible.

"I will continue to uphold the truth of my innocence in the events surrounding the death of my son," Starner said. "I am a changed person from who I once was when I was in the Army prior to my arrest."

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