ANACONDA — Jeremy Cramer will spend the rest of his life in state prison for slaying and butchering his 3-year-old son.
In gruesome testimony Friday at a sentencing hearing in Anaconda district court, witnesses testified that Cramer mutilated the boy’s body after smashing his head with a rock.
It was the first time the horrifying details of the crime became public, after Cramer admitted in December that he “purposely killed” his toddler, Broderick, struck a plea deal and was convicted of deliberate homicide.
Prosecutors called it one of the most brutal murders they’d ever seen. After seeing crime scene photos for the first time, District Judge Loren Tucker deviated from the terms of the plea agreement and left no chance Cramer would ever be paroled.
“There is simply no way to explain away what you did,” Tucker told Cramer, saying he hoped “the little boy didn’t know what was coming.”
Prosecutors say Cramer, 38, was desperate, facing $30,000 in debt, a substance-abuse problem and a potential divorce when he took the boy and fled the family’s home in Lacey, Wash.
Cramer stopped July 8 near Anaconda, carried the boy on his shoulders to a field and killed him after taking prescription stimulants.
Probation and parole officer Tara Billteen testified that the boy’s heart had been cut out.
"His head was almost removed from the body," she said.
A hunting knife and a blood-covered rock were found nearby.
Prosecutors said the case, although disturbingly brutal, did not meet the specific legal requirements for seeking the death penalty.
Cramer admitted to the killing on a jailhouse phone call with his father. But he never explained why he killed the boy, implying drugs had clouded his mind.
In court Friday, he read a brief statement. "I love my son and my wife with all my heart,” he said, “and this is something I have to live with."
The boy’s mother, Nataliya Cramer, also submitted a statement to the court, read by Billteen.
“The world has ended for me,” she wrote. She imagines her son in the moments before his death, pleading with Cramer, crying “Daddy, don’t hurt me. I love and trust you so much.”
Assistant Montana Attorney General Brant Light said that picture will “be with me forever.”
Although Cramer has said he is remorseful for the murder, he told Billteen he is more regretful of drinking in front his wife “than what he did on the hill that day,” the agent testified.
Light said that statement is very telling.
“Not that you took a knife and killed your child,” he said. “Those are the words of the defendant, and I think those speak volumes.”
Defense lawyers did not dispute any of the testimony. Sherry Staedler, a public defender, said Cramer was high on pills and “bouncing off the walls” at the time of the killing.
An Anaconda convenience store clerk called police when Cramer was spotted washing blood from his clothing in the restroom.
“He was loaded by the time he got picked up by law enforcement,” Staedler said, and repeatedly asked his lawyers why he killed the boy.
The prosecutor said it was the first time in his 28-year career he asked a judge to seal the crime scene photos.
“These were just too horrible,” Light said after the hearing. “And I’ve handled some gruesome homicides across the state.”
The mother said she clings to a vision of one day reuniting with her son.
“I will be with my little angel boy after I die,” she wrote.
— Reach Brandt at firstname.lastname@example.org or 406-496-5519.