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Bruce Watson pleads guilty to manslaughter in 1989 baby-shaking case; receives 18½-37 year sentence

A Bristol man could serve as long as 37 years in prison for killing Brian Wiggin, who died in 2008 at age 20, after a life paralyzed and in pain from injuries he suffered as an infant.

Bruce Watson, 47, pleaded guilty yesterday to manslaughter, admitting that in 1989, he shook and assaulted Wiggins hard enough to leave the boy blind and deaf and suffering from seizures for the rest of his life.

Watson was 23 at the time and baby-sitting for Wiggin’s mother, his then-girlfriend.

He did not deliberately set out to hurt the baby, but was acting out of frustration with the 4½-month-old’s crying, authorities have said.

As Watson shook him, Wiggin’s head whipped back and forth, according to court records. When Watson threw the baby on a loveseat, he heard a snap, then Wiggin went stiff and started to spit up.

Watson pleaded guilty to second degree assault in 1991 and received a 2½- to 7-year sentence. He eventually served about four.

He was arrested in August and charged with second-degree murder. The lesser charge of manslaughter was negotiated as part of the plea deal with state prosecutors; Watson also pleaded guilty to second-degree assault in a separate incident of abuse against Wiggin where he twisted the baby’s leg so hard he broke his tibia.

“The state feels this is a fair and a just sentence at this point,” said Assistant Attorney General Benjamin Agati yesterday. “It’s a fully negotiated plea, agreed to by both sides and by the court.”

Watson won’t be eligible for parole until at least 2026.

On Facebook, Wiggin’s mother, Tammy Perreault, posted a note to her son and his killer.

“The day I have been waiting 24 (years) for is today,” she wrote. “Hope you rot in prison, Bruce Watson. RIP Brian Charles Wiggin. I love and miss you every day.”

(Sarah Palermo can be reached at 369-3322 or
spalermo@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @SPalermoNews.)

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