PROVO, Utah – A Utah county prosecutor calls it one of the worst child abuse cases he's ever seen: an 8-year-old boy nearly beaten to death at the hands of his mother's ex-boyfriend.
The man was sentenced to 3 years in prison, and now the boy's mother is pushing for stricter child abuse laws.
Ashley Bellazetin leans on her sister as she recounts the nightmare that played out in her Provo home on July 25, 2016. Her boyfriend at the time, Metua Ngarupe, was babysitting her four children.
When she got home from work, she found her 8-year-old son Nikko laying on the couch, covered in a blanket and vomiting.
“Every inch of him was just covered in bruises, there were hand marks,” Bellazetin said.
Ngarupe admitted to spanking the boy for falling outside and chipping his tooth on a sprinkler, but Bellazetin’s 7-year-old daughter confirmed the horrific details.
“He kicked, punched Nikko, that he was stomping on him. Just yelling horrible names at him,” Bellazetin said. “He hit his head into the faucet, and that's how his front teeth were chipped.”
Nikko was Life-Flighted to Primary Children’s Hospital and suffered a concussion and numerous internal injuries. Bellazetin says the man who her children looked up to showed no remorse.
“He even made the comment that Nikko is going to be so much stronger because of going through this," Bellazetin said. "He's a little kid. He shouldn't be made stronger. If anything, it broke him.
Last week, Ngarupe pleaded guilty to three lesser charges of second-degree felony child abuse. The judge sentenced him to three years in prison with credit for time served, due to mitigating factors such as a lack of a criminal history.
Right now, Utah does not have a first-degree felony child abuse law on the books.
“Even in court, they said had he done that to an adult it would have been attempted murder," Bellazetin said.
Bellazetin’s family is fighting to change the laws. She has reached out to lawmakers to ensure other children don’t have to suffer.
“This was an 8-year-old boy, maybe 45 pounds," Bellazetin said. "Small, little boy that he almost killed. And he could be out in as little as 3 years. It's ridiculous."
Ashley's next step is to ask the Utah Parole Board to extend Ngarupe's sentence. She has created a Facebook community to connect with others who are willing to join her fight.