Danny A. Wing watches as Jasper’s mother prepares to leave the courtroom following his sentencing hearing.
By Sharyn L. Decker
Lewis County Sirens news reporter
CHEHALIS – Danny Wing was ready to be sentenced today.
For his role in the abuse, neglect and death of a 3-year-old boy he and his wife took into their family last summer.
His lawyer argued for far less time than prosecutors requested, and even made a winning argument that prosecutors should give his client another polygraph test before concluding Wing violated their plea agreement.
“My client knew the parents of Jasper would be in the courtroom today,” Vancouver defense attorney Todd Pascoe said. “He knew I would make this argument. He wants to proceed as if I’d never raised this issue.”
Wing, 27, has been held in the Lewis County Jail since last autumn, as has his wife, charged following the death of Jasper Henderling-Warner.
Firefighters and deputies responding the evening of Oct. 5 to a 911 call from the Wing’s new home in Vader, found CPR was underway. The toddler was revived, but died at Providence Centralia Hospital, according to prosecutors.
The autopsy found abrasions, bruises, facial trauma and healing fractures and labeled the cause of death as chronic battered child syndrome. Jasper was suffering from skin infections that were found to be secondary to his cause of death.
Prosecutors initially charged the couple with homicide by abuse or, in the alternative, first-degree manslaughter; each of the two were charged as either the principal or accomplice.
Conflicting stories and an inability to figure out just what occurred led to deals with the Wings this past spring which required them to truthfully describe what occurred, in exchange for guilty pleas and convictions on first-degree manslaughter and recommendations they be locked up for about 16 years.
But Danny Wing didn’t pass the lie detector test, and today in Lewis County Superior Court, prosecutors asked for an exceptional sentence beyond the standard range, citing the so-called enhancements that allowed it; that the victim was a member of his household, and that Wing abused a position of trust on a particularly vulnerable victim.
Brenda A. Wing
Lewis County Senior Deputy Prosecutor Will Halstead described what investigators learned. Wing’s lawyer spoke of cooperation from his client and other reasons for a standard sentence.
After hearing from Jasper’s mother, his father and a Vader firefighter who was part of the huge aid response that tried to save the child’s life, and vowed to speak forever for the little boy who was silenced, Judge Nelson Hunt imposed a sentence of a little longer than 34 and a half years.
The judge called it an incredible story of horror and suffering inflicted.
“The top of the range for the crime that was actually committed here, is what I’m going to go with,” Hunt said.
Between the statements from Halstead, and those of Pascoe, a clearer picture emerged of Jasper’s last 64 days on this earth.
Jasper’s 21-year-old mother Nikki Warner had given the couple temporary custody last summer – at the end of July – while she was homeless and looked for work out of state.
Warner, who lived in the Vancouver area, and Danny Wing were loosely related in a foster family scenario although they’d only recently met each other.
The married couple had three children of their own.
Both lawyers told the judge they did not believe the Wings set out to kill Jasper or intended for him to die.
It started on the return home from a beach trip to Oregon, Halstead said.
Brenda Wing told her husband Jasper had placed his hands over Danny Jr.’s mouth, he said, noting that turned out to be a lie.
“This set off Danny, he struck Jasper quite a few times in the back of the van as they left,” Halstead said.
The beating left the little boy with injuries to his lip and nose, according to Halstead.
The senior deputy prosecutor went on to describe the Wings as heavy heroin users without a stable home, moving from hotel to hotel.
“One of the ways the Wings decided to treat the bruises was to put hot wash cloths on them,” he said. “We all know people on drugs don’t always think rationally.”
Then they spent hours blowing a hair dryer onto the bruises, causing a massive burn one-third the length of Jasper’s upper thigh, he said.
Danny pulled the scab off, Jasper at this time was crawling around in diapers; he contracted MRSA, Halstead said.
The little boy was being hit and conditioned until he would say someone else had been harming him, he said.
“We know now one of the reasons they did not seek help is they’d had prior contact with CPS,” Halstead said. “They didn’t want CPS coming to see the kids.”
Defense attorney Pascoe spoke of a glowing report from CPS about the family, “I think it was July 1,” he said.
He spoke of the Wings love for their children and the “Cinderella affect”.
They should have given Jasper back to his mother, or taken him to the hospital, or accepted help that was offered, Pascoe said. But they didn’t.
“At the root was fear of separation from their own children,” he said.
Halstead told the judge that Jasper’s mother and the Wings had actually written out an agreement, that included that she could visit her son whenever she wanted.
“Nikki had her own personal issues she was taking care of,” he said.
She tried to see Jasper during this time, he said.
“Every time, she was denied,” he said. “She didn’t understand why.”
“Come to find out, of course, her son was slowly dying at the hands of the Wings,” he said. “She never saw her son again.”
Eventually the couple moved to the house in Vader, about two weeks before Jasper’s death, according to Halstead.
He continued to recite what the investigation and interviews revealed.
“They put makeup on him so they could go out in public,” he said.
In the end, the toddler was not eating, not drinking, was basically non-responsive and having seizures, he said.
The last week of his life he lay on the floor in a blanket, and they would periodically check on him to make sure he was still alive, Halstead said.
Halstead, with Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer beside him, told the judge the state thought long and hard about the penalty. They considered the senselessness, the couple’s attempts to blame others and the length of time Jasper suffered.
They asked that Danny Wing be sent to prison for 55 years.
Judge Hunt asked the lawyers to tell him the standard sentencing ranges that would apply for first-degree murder, for second-degree murder and for homicide by abuse.
Among the many gathered in the Chehalis courtroom was Vader’s Assistant Fire Chief Ruth Crear.
“He won’t go to school, get married, he won’t get to do anything,” Crear said. “And that man gets to still breathe.”
Casey Henderling told the judge he agreed with the prosecutors’ recommendation.
“I don’t think 15 years is even close,” he said. “They chose to kill and torture my son.”
Jasper’s mother read from a lengthy letter about the loss of the child she gave birth to at age 17.
She told of a handsome, bright boy who loved all animals and insects and whose favorite foods were Gummy hot dogs and real hot dogs.
“I did the best I could for him, then came to a point where my surroundings were no longer good for Jasper,” Warner said. “The Wings, I thought, were a regular married family with three kids.
“Brenda told me she would decorate his room with Ninja Turtles.”
She said she couldn’t understand how fully grown adults could torture a 3-year-old and how she hoped their children, for their sake, would never find out what their parents did.
“I wish you a painful, violent and slow death in prison,” Warner said.
Pascoe offered reasons he felt the judge could consider a 15-year sentence noting his client was the first of the two to take responsibility; that he turned over records and even a cell phone to investigators, without deleting its messages.
He read to the judge letters from Danny Wing’s mother, a jail chaplain and a fellow inmate who described Wing discovering a sincere desire to serve God. And he made mention of seeing an eerie parallel between Wing as a baby and Jasper as he read passages about CPS concerns from late 1998.
Danny Wing was the last to address the court.
He told the judge that whether he got 50 years or 15, he plans to teach others what drugs can cause.
“I’m not asking for leniency,” he said. “I’m really sorry; I know that doesn’t make up for what they lost.”
Wing was also given 48 months for third-degree child assault, which he also pleaded guilty to in March. The time will be served concurrent with the other.
Brenda Wing’s sentencing was also scheduled for today, but postponed because of a technical issue with materials handed over to her attorney on a CD. The lawyer couldn’t open up the CD to read it, according to Prosecutor Meyer.
For background, read “Coroner: Ongoing physical abuse led to Vader toddler’s death” from Friday November 7, 2014, here
Prosecutors and a victim advocate stand with Nikki Warner as she addresses the court about the loss of her 3-year-old son.