An appeals court has affirmed a Baton Rouge man's conviction and 40-year prison term in a horrific cruelty case involving his then-20-month-old son, who had a burn mark from a fork on his leg when he was rushed to a hospital unconscious in 2009.

The boy's father, Steven Staggs, 36, and stepmother, Charlotte Staggs, 32, were found guilty at separate trials of second-degree cruelty to a juvenile and sentenced to the maximum 40 years behind bars by then-state District Judge Mike Erwin.

The boy was taken to a hospital in 2009 after ingesting fingernail polish remover. Medical personnel testified at the trials that the child was severely dehydrated and malnourished and had scrapes, bruises and sores on his emaciated body, in addition to the impression of the tines of a fork burned onto his leg. He weighed just 15 pounds.

Steven Staggs testified at his 2015 trial that he totally trusted Charlotte Staggs to care for his son and her children while he was at work. He said he knew nothing about the fork burn or many of the other marks on his son’s body.

The state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal on Friday rejected Staggs' argument that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction. The court said the boy's "deteriorated physical condition at the hospital was readily apparent to anyone who observed him."

"But even if, as suggested, Charlotte inflicted most or all of the abuse, the defendant's failure to protect his son from these attacks amounted to criminally negligent neglect," the appellate court stated.

Charlotte Staggs testified at her 2012 trial that she never intentionally hurt her stepson and denied giving special treatment to her two biological children. She said the boy burned himself with a fork when she left a bowl of hot noodles unattended on a table.

Higher courts have affirmed her conviction and sentence.

The boy is now living with his maternal grandmother and her husband, who adopted him.

Email Joe Gyan Jr. at jgyan@theadvocate.com.