OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The parents of a young boy nearly beaten to death want lawmakers to at least consider a bill that would increase prison time for future offenders, but they're having a tough time being heard.
The House bill has been dubbed the "Eryk Woodruff Public Safety Act" after the Lake Stevens boy who was badly beaten by his babysitter last September.
The beating left the then-15 month old boy with broken bones and a serious brain injury. He was treated at Harborview Medical Center, then transported to an assisted living facility. When he was finally allowed to come home, he had to wear a helmet to protect his brain.
"He has no bones on the right side of his head," his mother, Rachel Pierce, said last April.
Family friend Matthew Christiansen, 33, who was babysitting Eryk and his 3-year-old sibling, pleaded guilty to the beating. He was convicted of first-degree child assault and sentenced to ten years.
But Eryk's family believes the babysitter will be released in just four years. They want the Legislature to stiffen penalties and require those convicted of beating children to register as sex offenders do.
The boy's parents, Pierce and Russell Woodruff, are pushing state lawmakers to create longer prison terms for people who harm children, but the two have hit a political stalemate. The seeming lack of interest in the bill is heartbreaking for the two, who have been through so much.
"We don't want another family to go through what we went through with our son," said Pierce. "I cannot understand why somebody would look at this piece of legislation that is aimed at nothing more than protecting the children and say 'we don't have time to hear it."'
"What if they were in our shoes or somebody else's shoes, and their child was hurt?" said Russ Woodruff. " Would they want their offender to get out in ten years or less?"
Eryk is slowly making progress, Pierce said, but his life and the lives of his family members have changed for good.
"He's doing really well. He's finally learned to crawl. About three months ago, he had his feeding tubes removed. He can finally eat on his own.
"We will never be able to look at our son and not think about what happened to him. He's going to have the physical scars, the emotional scars forever," she said.
Eryk's parents believe the money and the cost of implementing a new law against child abusers could be what's working against the legislation. But if and when lawmakers agree to here, both plan to be there to testify.