The owner of The Manse on Marsh convicted last month of involuntary manslaughter for the death of a resident will spend six months behind bars but will avoid prison time after the judge ruled he couldn’t justify it.
The standing-room-only crowd in the San Luis Obispo courtroom Friday morning included many Manse on Marsh employees and residents for the sentencing hearing involving Christopher Skiff.
He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and elderly and dependent adult abuse by a San Luis Obispo County jury last month in connection with the death of Manse on Marsh resident Mauricio Edgar Cardenas.
The 65-year-old was hit and killed by a car 10 miles from the San Luis Obispo facility in December 2014. It’s alleged that Cardenas suffered from dementia and should not have been living at the facility.
Many hugs were exchanged between Skiff and family members prior to the start of sentencing. Once underway, the judge denied the motion for a new trial calling the first trial, which started in mid-November, “fair.”
Skiff’s father told KSBY News there was “an injustice.”
An ex-wife of Cardenas spoke during sentencing. Kim Cardenas told the judge Mauricio was a biologist with fish and game, a motorcyclist and the father of her son. “We feel Christopher Skiff is a good person… Our hope is a fair sentence is given to Christopher Skiff.”
Robert Shank spoke out in support of Skiff, saying Skiff brought two young orphans from Russia into his home and was a man who constantly and routinely gives back. “We believe in Chris Skiff,” he said.
Before handing down the sentence, Judge Craig Van Rooyen said he couldn’t tell if Skiff was remorseful, saying Skiff had not pointed out mistakes that had been made or said he would not make them again.
Ultimately, Van Rooyen sentenced Skiff to five years of probation and 180 days in county jail. He said he couldn’t justify prison time in this case. Skiff faced up to eight years behind bars and cried after the sentence was handed down. He will begin serving the jail time on March 22.
Skiff’s attorney told KSBY News Skiff has given up management at the assisted-living facility and won’t be in the business any longer.
Skiff told KSBY he and his attorney will be appealing the case.
Logan Sexton, managing principal for the Manse on Marsh’s operations management company, released the following statement about Friday’s sentencing: “On behalf of the Residents, their Families, and the caring Staff of The Manse, we would like to offer our heartfelt concern and sincere regard for Chris Skiff and his Family, as they battle through severe adverse circumstances that have impacted their lives. We stand strong with Chris and his family as they face the stress of an unexpected verdict and the sequential regrettable sentencing imposed upon him. Mr. Skiff is a caring and respected man of faith, a wonderful father, an adoring husband, and has been an exceptional friend to so many of us in the San Luis Obispo community. Our prayers will continue to follow Mr. Skiff and his Family as they walk through this difficult season of life.”
Gary Potts, a former employee of the facility, was also charged in the case and has pleaded not guilty.
California Attorney General Xavier Becerra released a statement following the sentencing.
“Today’s sentencing brings justice to the family of Mauricio Edgar Cardenas. My heart breaks for this family and the tragic loss they had to endure. Elderly patients and their families place the highest level of trust in care facilities and their staff to protect residents, not neglect their needs. My office will vigorously go after facilities that violate the law and endanger the residents they are charged to care for,” said Becerra.