ANDERSON — Dylan Tate appeared calm and unfazed as he sat yawning in a jury seat before his sentence hearing on Tuesday.
Tate, 28, was convicted of murdering his girlfriend’s 18-month-old son after authorities said he brutally beat, tortured and molested Harlan Haines before his death and then tried to cover the murder and injuries to the child with a fake car accident on Feb. 23, 2018.
Harlan was pronounced brain dead two days later.
About a dozen people who attended Tate’s trial sat waiting in the courtroom for the hearing to begin Tuesday morning. Harlan’s father, Jackie Haines, waited with them.
A heated exchange occurred moments before the hearing when James Harris, Harlan’s maternal grandfather, verbally lashed out at Tate who smiled at family members in the courtroom.
“Bet you won’t be smiling in a year,” Harris said.
“Bet your daughter won’t be either,” said a woman sitting with Tate’s mother and other family members.
Jennifer Harris is charged with Level 1 felony neglect for Harlan’s death. Her trial is set for 9 a.m. Nov. 12, before Madison County Circuit Court 1 Judge Angela Warner Sims.
Before sentencing Tate, Sims said Harlan was a defenseless child who suffered a "slow and torturous death” and referenced the bruising, bite marks and brain injuries that were found on Harlan.
“This all came at the hands of a person entrusted for having to care for him,” said Sims. “The hands that a child should know to hold him when he cries, feed him when he is hungry, bathe and clothe him. The defendant’s hands in this case betrayed Harlan that night and were instead used as weapons to beat, torture and kill him at a tender age."
Sims sentenced Tate to life without parole for Harlan’s murder plus 52 and a half years for Level 1 felony neglect of a dependent resulting in death, Level 1 felony child molesting and Level 6 felony operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
After his sentence Tate made a single statement in the courtroom.
“The truth will come out, that is all I have to say,” he said.
Haines said he repeatedly imagined what he would say to Tate once given the opportunity, but found himself thrown off guard by Tate's "smirk" when he was finally given the opportunity to address him in court.
"Words can't explain the nightmare we live every single day — not just myself, but my family, and Harlan's family and everyone involved in his life," Haines said. "We are stuck on repeat over and over. It's something we have to live with."
Haines talked about wanting to take justice into his own hands for the death of his son and how it was difficult to wait for the state to prosecute Tate for the murder.
"The blood you spilled on your hands is my blood," Haines told Tate.
Harlan's grandfather, James Harris, talked about feeling uneasy around Tate before the murder and how Harlan's death destroyed his daughter's life.
"I can't do nothing for my grandson," Harris said. "I should have protected him."
After the sentencing, Haines said he was frustrated at how long it is taking to find justice for his son.
“The job is still not finished,” he said referring to the trial of Harlan’s mother in November.
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