SEBRING - A father who left his young daughter to die in a hot car last September was sentenced to 20 years in prison Monday.
Christopher King, who had pleaded guilty to aggravated manslaughter, could have received up to 30 years in prison in connection with the death of his daughter, Amelia. That was the time requested by the prosecution.
Heather Wills, Amelia's mother, said she didn't think the 20-year sentence was fair because her daughter didn't get to live 20 years.
But, she added, that at least King won't be out of prison until their son is 18 and can make his own decision about his relationship with his father.
She said she was concerned beforehand that he got unsupervised visitation because she said she knew King was on drugs. Although she asked for help from the Florida Department of Children and Family Services, the agency said it couldn't do anything because no proof existed he was using drugs.
Prosecutors argued that King and another man used drugs the night before and they left Amelia and her brother alone in a car. Prosecutors also said that King initially blamed his son for the daughter being locked in the car. He maintained at that time they were playing.
Assistant State Attorney Richard Castillo said he could accept the sentence and that it was within the sentencing guidelines.
Under those guidelines, the minimum sentence would have been around 14 years, but Shirley Whitsitt, the defense attorney, asked for five years in prison and 10 years probation.
Circuit Judge William Sites, who imposed the sentence, rejected that.
He said that although no evidence exists that King intended for the child to die, he nevertheless committed a "serious, serious" offense.
King testified during the sentencing hearing that he loved his children. He said he was at most guilty of negligence and never fully explained what he was doing while the child was in the car.
"Amelia deserves more than being left in a car," Wills testified during the hearing.