For 2 1/2 years, the body of 81-year-old Leroy Adams Sr. lay curled in bed, rotting down to a dark stain around a partly clothed skeleton.
His son, a retired Army reserve officer, has maintained that he did not kill his father. Lon Adams, 60, says he can't explain why he left the body in a closed bedroom, telling his sister and his son that "Paw Paw" was asleep, sick, angry or in a hospital.
But on Friday, Adams was sentenced to 20 years on a manslaughter conviction. A grand jury had charged him with second-degree murder _ accusing him of beating his father and leaving him to die, but jurors convicted him in September of the lesser charge.
Police found the body in June 2008 after Lon Adams' sister filed a missing persons report.
State District Judge Cornelius "Conn" Regan called it the most difficult case of his career. "I'm as confused today as when I first read about it in the newspaper," he said Friday as he handed down a sentence that was half the maximum allowed.
Pathologists testified during the trial that Leroy Adams Sr. suffered some of his 29 broken bones _ including ribs, a finger, a toe, and the bone near the larynx _ at different times, not all at once.
"I haven't heard one bit of mitigation. I haven't heard anything to explain what would cause this defendant to treat his daddy like that," the judge said Friday.
Regan said he didn't believe the defense argument that Adams had to throw his father onto the bed after finding he had fallen onto a footlocker. Defense witnesses testified at trial that osteoporosis could have contributed to the broken bones, but prosecutors countered that the father was never diagnosed with the bone disease.
"I did not believe his story then. I do not believe his story now," Regan said Friday.
Adams struggled to explain Friday why he would have left his father's body to rot.
"I can only surmise that his death ... upset me so much that I couldn't accept it" and pushed it out of his mind, he told the judge.
"I believe that if I would have killed him, I would have disposed of the body," he added.
Defense attorney Joseph Raspanti said afterward that he will ask Regan to reconsider the sentence.
The case has split Adams' family.
A cousin who told the judge she represented relatives who wanted lenience, Marlaine Peachey, wept when the sentence was read. She declined to speak to reporters.
Lon Adams' 32-year-old son, Chad, told the judge: "I need him and hope he gets out. It would be a precious present if he did."
Relatives asking for the maximum sentence included Lynne Landreneau _ the sister who reported Adams missing, her husband and her niece Bonnie Landreneau.
Staring across the courtroom at her uncle, Bonnie Landreneau said, "You will feel more pain in Hell than you ever feel in this life."