Cowlitz County man sentenced to six years in prison after pleading guilty to child assault charges

A Cowlitz County Superior Court judge Tuesday sentenced a 34-year-old Longview man to more than six years in prison after he pleaded guilty to second-degree felony child assault from two separate incidents.

Jacob W. Kunkle was arrested by Kelso officers in November 2021 after doctors said injuries on a 3-year-old toddler were “consistent with child abuse and blunt force trauma,” according to court documents.

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Charges were also brought against Kunkle while out on bail in August after parents of a 1-year-old infant told police Kunkle had choked the child while in their house.

Kunkle pleaded guilty to both accusations and was sentenced to six years and three months with 18 months of community custody by Cowlitz County Superior Court Judge Gary Bashor during a virtual hearing.

The sentencing encompasses both cases. Bashor also applied a no-contact order for the victims.

“There’s no other way to describe these acts as anything than heinous and unbelievably cruel with essentially no explanation for why they occurred,” Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Sean Brittain told Bashor.

Public Defender David Phelan represented Kunkle for both cases. Kunkle apologized in court, saying he struggled with drug addiction that worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic and sent him into a “spiral.”

“Life got really dark,” Kunkle said. “I apologize for everything everybody had to go through. I’m sorry for this misunderstanding.”

Bashor said relapses happen but do not explain or justify the actions to which Kunkle pleaded guilty.

“It’s hard to view either of these cases as misunderstandings,” Bashor said.

Both of the victims’ mothers attended the Zoom sentencing hearing, as well as Kunkle’s mother Debbie Scott.

“I feel good knowing that this is out there,” Anastasia McIntyre, the 3-year-old’s mother, told The Daily News on Thursday. “I don’t have to explain myself or defend myself anymore. I feel at peace knowing that this is over, and I don’t have to deal with it anymore.”

The mother of the 1-year-old infant, declined to make a statement.

McIntyre’s other child told police they had also been verbally abused and hurt by Kunkle, according to court document.

Scott told the court she believed Kunkle’s drug addiction and past trauma in his life had led to “bad decisions.”

“I am not defending or saying he is guilty,” Scott said through tears during the hearing. “I’m just saying this is completely out of my son’s character. … This does not excuse my son for what has happened or didn’t happen. I just know my son Jacob, in his right frame of mind, would not intentionally hurt an innocent, helpless child. So I just ask that you take this into consideration when sentencing him. He is a good son. He is a good brother. He is a good father.”

In the 15 months since her child was taken to the hospital with several bruises and a lacerated pancreas, McIntyre said her family has been trying to “heal” from the events. She said she had some peace hearing Kunkle plead guilty, adding that drug addiction “doesn’t make you a bad human.”

“Everyone has it rough, but we’re not all out here hurting children,” McIntyre said.

Sydney Brown is a news reporter for The Daily News covering education and environmental issues in Cowlitz County.