Ronald Harding sits at a defense table after entering a courtroom at the Penobscot Judicial Center on March 2. On Monday, he was sentenced for the death of his 6-week-old son in 2021. Credit: Linda Coan O'Kresik / BDN

A Brewer father was sentenced to 15 years in prison for the death of his 6-week-old son — but will only serve 6.5 years.

Penobscot County Superior Judge Ann Murray sentenced Ronald Harding, 38, to 15 years in prison with eight and a half years suspended and six years of probation on Tuesday.

A jury convicted Harding of manslaughter on March 2. He caused the death of his son, Jaden Harding, by violently shaking the boy on Memorial Day 2021.

Part of his probation conditions include no unsupervised contact with children under the age of 12.

“Something horrible happened to Jaden while he was in the care of his father,” Assistant Attorney General Leanne Robbin said.

Jaden was shaken with so much force that he suffered a devastating brain injury and died at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center, Robbin said.

Kayla Hartley, Jaden’s mother, was not able to emotionally handle being in court, Robbin said. A victim advocate read a statement from Hartley.

“Jaden had beautiful eyes and a big smile,” the statement said. “He was a perfect little boy.”

Maine Department of Health and Human Services removed Hartley’s three older children from her custody because of Jaden’s death, the statement said. They are now living with their biological father.

“I want Ron to know how angry this whole thing has made me,” the statement said. “I’ve lost everything. I will never understand how he could shake a baby and not think of the consequences and how he ruined our family. He damaged all of us.”

Harding, wearing an orange Penobscot County Jail jumpsuit, declined to make a statement before sentencing. He did not visibly react when the judge handed down his sentence.

Harding has a learning disability, which in part means his body language does not appear the same way as other people’s, but he still feels emotion, defense attorney William Ashe said.

Hartley left Jaden with Harding while she bathed her older children in another room. Jaden was alert and happy before she left the infant with his father but was not responsive or breathing when she came back, Robbin said. 

Initially, the infant tested positive for the coronavirus at Northern Light Eastern Maine Medical Center but two subsequent tests were negative. 

During the trial a forensic pathologist for the defense said the bleeding in Jaden’s brain was a complication of the coronavirus that caused swelling. The pathologist said the blood clotting in his brain was from a COVID-19 infection.

Dr. Liam Funte, Maine’s deputy chief medical examiner, said Jaden died of an inflicted trauma.

The jury heard four days of testimony and deliberated for an hour before returning the guilty verdict.

Harding is in the Penobscot County Jail and will be transferred to the Maine Department of Corrections.

Marie Weidmayer is a reporter covering crime and justice. A recent transplant to Maine, she was born and raised in Michigan, where she worked for MLive, covering the criminal justice system. She graduated...