HAYWARD — A Fremont foster father charged with fatally pummeling a 2-year-old boy because he was being defiant was found guilty Thursday of second-degree murder and assault on a child causing death.
Terry Howard Corder, 45, was found guilty as charged at the Hayward Hall of Justice a little more than a day after jurors began deliberating.
Corder will return to court Oct. 15 for sentencing. The charges for which he was convicted carry sentences of at least 15 years to life, and 25 years to life in state prison.
The guilty verdict brings to an end a five-year homicide case that left the family of the victim, Dylan James George, distraught and emotional.
"It's very hard for five years to have that open wound. It's been very hard for the family," Dylan's grandmother, Cheryl Keeling, said. "I'm glad it's over, glad he (Corder) got what he deserved. I didn't want Dylan to be forgotten. "... Justice has been served."
Dylan had been in the care of Terry and Sherrie Corder in their Fremont home for less than three weeks when the boy was assaulted about the head Oct. 2, 2004, because he refused to eat and then apparently bit both of his foster parents, according to testimony.
The boy died two days later at Children's Hospital Oakland from what pathologists ruled to be blunt trauma to the head. An autopsy showed there were more than 20 bruises on top of the boy's head and a large contusion on his forehead.
Lynn Corder, also 45, at one time was charged with murder, but since has accepted a plea agreement in exchange for her testimony. She has pleaded guilty to child endangerment and will be sentenced in the near future to either four or six years in state prison.
Sherrie Corder and two of her three daughters testified against Terry Corder during the nearly monthlong trial. Sherrie Corder painted her husband as a man whose temper would rage when he drank, which she accused him of doing the day the boy was assaulted.
The wife said that her husband forced Dylan to march in circles Oct. 2, 2004, and then hit him on the head with his knuckles each time the boy passed by. Terry Corder later knocked the boy to the floor and kicked him in the head as he lay on the ground, she said.
"It was hard enough that it moved Dylan a couple of inches," she testified about the force of the kick.
The younger of the two daughters testified that she saw he father hit Dylan just as her mother described, while the older daughter said her father took Dylan to another room, and presumably slammed him against a wall on the same evening.
The morning after the assault, Dylan was found to be blue in the face and not breathing.
Sherrie Corder testified that she called 911 and told authorities that the boy fell in the bathtub the night before, an alibi that she later testified was contrived by her husband. She also said that before police arrived, Terry Corder had wished they could hide the boy's body.
Jury foreman Suellyn Steigmeyer, who is an emergency room nurse, said jurors all thought the testimony from the Corders' daughters — each of whom are in foster care — was most credible because they detailed the abuse.
"It was very sad, very emotional for everybody," she said.
Dylan's aunt, Desiree Keeling, lauded the efforts of the prosecutor, and said Dylan will never be forgotten.
"He was in court with me every day with his precious face tattooed on my arm," she said. "Dylan is my little hero and I miss him so much. My little angel is watching us from above."
Dylan's biological grandmother, Marian Desgroux, also expressed joy with the jury's decision.
"I'm glad that God prevailed and justice was done for our grandson," she said.
Dylan had been removed from his mother's care in September 2004 after his 4-month-old bother, Justin, died from sudden infant death syndrome.
Dylan had two supervised visits with his mother, Monica Mireles, after he was placed into foster care. According to testimony, the boy had become increasingly agitated after the visits, possibly because he missed his family.