Mother urges board to deny parole for abuser

Published: Dec. 8, 2017 at 4:52 PM CST
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Christmas is a very special time for Melanie Bartlett. It was right before Christmas six years ago, she welcomed Antonio, 7, into her home.

"He and I - we were supposed to be together," Bartlett, Antonio's adoptive mother, said.

This Christmas season, though, could prove to be one of the most painful if Kelsey Candler, 29, is released from prison. Candler is Antonio's birth father.

When Antonio was just two-months-old, he suffered several skull fractures, hemorrhaging and a broken leg.

"And so based on those injuries," Bartlett said, "the doctors say he was most likely picked up by his legs and slammed, several times, against a hard object."

Candler was sentenced to a minimum of 15 years for felony child abuse. Bartlett has a message for his parole board.

"I feel like Antonio's the one who is in prison. He's in the prison of his own body that was created for him by the person who was supposed to love him most."

Antonio can't eat. He's fed through a tube in his stomach. He receives 18 medications a day. He undergoes extensive therapy and treatments. He's constantly surprising doctors, though, with how many years he's made it.

According to Bartlett, Antonio is the example of what his birth father is capable of. Her biggest fear is seeing Candler get an early release.

"But I also am afraid of losing Antonio," she said. "He is the biggest joy in my life."

And as his mother, she vows to do everything she can to stand up and speak out for him.

"He doesn't get parole," Bartlett said. "He doesn't get an early release. The only release he will have is when he leaves this earthly life."

Candler's parole hearing is scheduled for December 26th, the day after Christmas. Bartlett will be there, providing a statement on Antonio's behalf.