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Bristol man pleads guilty to assault, manslaughter in 1989 shaken baby case

FRANKLIN — The Bristol man who was charged with murder in the 2008 death of an 18-year-old who he shook as a baby pleaded guilty to lesser charges Friday that carry a sentence of at least 18½ years.

Bruce Watson, 46, was originally charged in August with one count of reckless second-degree murder for shaking 4½-month-old Brian Wiggin in 1989.

Wiggin was 18 when he died from what the state medical examiner ruled a homicide as the result of a catastrophic brain injury suffered when he was shaken as a baby.

On Friday, as part of a plea agreement, the murder charge against Watson was not prosecuted. He pleaded guilty instead to one count of second-degree assault and one count of manslaughter, court officials said.

Belknap County Superior Court Judge James O'Neill sentenced Watson to serve jail terms on both counts — 3½ to 7 years for assault and 15 to 30 years for manslaughter — consecutively.

Wiggin's mother, Tammy Perreault of Epsom, said Monday she agreed with the plea bargain because it means Watson, her ex-boyfriend, will spend at least one year in jail for each year that Wiggin lived, "and for every year he suffered."

"I'm very happy now, I've carried the guilt of this alone for so many years," she said. "Now he's living with it."Wiggin had been living his life as a blind quadriplegic since Watson shook him at Perreault's home at 293 W. Main St. in Tilton in 1989.

Shortly after the 1989 incident, Watson pleaded guilty to second-degree assault and served 2½ years in state prison, authorities said.

But the case was reopened after Wiggin died on June 9, 2008, and an autopsy showed his death was a direct result of being shaken as a baby, which prompted the state Attorney General's office to look at Wiggin's "quality of life" after his 1989 injury.

Under state law, Watson could be punished again for the same incident, and it was not a case of "double-jeopardy" because of the nature of the crime. The state would only have to prove that he was aware of his actions in causing Wiggin's death.

Watson had claimed he shook Wiggin as a baby because he wouldn't stop crying, Perreault said.


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