A 26-year-old Golden Meadow man convicted in May of raping a toddler will spend the rest of his life in prison, a judge ruled Thursday.

A 12-member jury took less than an hour May 24 to find Eric Matherne guilty of the first-degree rape of a 20-month-old girl on July 18, 2017.

Dressed in a red jail-issued jumpsuit, Matherne appeared in court but showed no emotion or reaction as the judge pronounced his mandatory life sentence.

“The court has reviewed all of the evidence and testimony and is aware that the sentence is mandatory,” District Judge Chris Boudreaux said. “Based upon the heinous offense presented to the jury, any lesser sentence would deprecate the seriousness of the offense.”

Matherne will serve the sentence without parole, probation or early release, the judge said.

Matherne was arrested July 20, 2017, after the child was taken to Lady of the Sea General Hospital with signs of sexual abuse, the Sheriff’s Office said. The girl was later transferred to Children’s Hospital of New Orleans.

At the time of the assault, the victim was staying at her aunt’s Galliano mobile home while her grandmother was on a fishing boat, prosecutors said. The grandmother sought medical attention after finding blood in the child’s diaper, prosecutors said. Physicians determined the girl had suffered vaginal trauma and transferred her to Children’s Hospital in New Orleans for surgery. The child’s vagina had multiple cuts and required stitches, prosecutors said.

Although the defendant initially told detectives he didn’t know how the child was injured, he later said he found dried blood on his pelvis while taking a shower, authorities said. Detectives then interviewed him a second time.

Several jurors cried as they watched a video of Matherne confessing to the rape.

“I was changing her diaper and wiping her,” Mathene says in the video. “And then. ... My old lady’s never going to forgive me. That’s when I shoved my finger in her. From there it escalated.”

The defendant went on to tell detectives he had sex with the toddler but stopped after the child began screaming.

Matherne’s court-appointed attorney Andrew Wise contended his client was forced to give a false confession. No DNA or any other physical evidence linking Matherne to the crime was ever recovered, Wise said.

Assistant District Attorney Jason Chatagnier said severity of the Matherne’s crime necessitated a stiff punishment.

“The only consequence is life in prison without benefit,” said Chatagnier, who prosecuted the case. “We believe that is a just sentence for a crime of this nature.”

Wise said he intends to file an appeal.

--Staff Writer Dan Copp can be reached at 446-7639 or at dan.copp@houmatoday.com. Follow him on Twitter @DanVCopp.