Roberto Pedraza III
March 16, 2011
PLYMOUTH — Roberto Pedraza Jr., 21, of Walkerton, was sentenced today to serve 20 years in prison for neglect of a dependent resulting in death. Pedraza’s 2-month-old son, Roberto Pedraza III, died Jan. 18, 2010, from severe internal and brain injuries obtained while in the care of his father.
According to police testimony, Pedraza was caring for the child while the mother, Whitney Adams, formerly of Plymouth, was at work.
Pedraza Jr. admitted he shook and squeezed the baby, which resulted in death. He pleaded guilty to a plea deal that dropped voluntary manslaughter and battery resulting in death charges.
In the plea agreement sentencing today, Marshall County Superior Court 1 Judge Robert Bowen allowed the investigating officer and families of the victim to take the stand before deciding whether to accept the plea agreement for a 30-year prison sentence with 10 years suspended.
Neglect of a dependent resulting in death is a Class A felony, punishable by 20 to 50 years in prison.
Plymouth Detective Leo Mangus said Pedraza Jr. gave conflicting statements of what actually happened to the victim, but admitted he was solely responsible.
Mangus said Pedraza first said the baby’s ribs were broken because the infant stopped breathing and he performed chest compressions. In another scenario Pedraza said the baby fell from a swing, he picked him up, shook him and then dropped him.
Maternal grandfather James Adams placed a framed photo of the infant on the stand while reading a statement from the victim’s mother, who has since moved to Florida.
"What you did to our son was disgusting and implorable," he read to the defendant. "You hurt so many people with your disgusting act, and now you act like you’re the victim.
"The victim is my son," Adams said, in reading from the mother’s letter.
Adams also accused Pedraza Jr. of prior abuse in the days preceding the child’s death. Paternal grandfather Roberto Pedraza Sr. took the stand and said his son did not intentionally hurt his grandson.
"We are all grieving at this time," said Pedraza Sr., pointing out that his son has no past history of violence. "Now Whitney’s family is degrading my son as a baby beater and killer."
Pedraza Sr. said his son should have told the truth of what happened in the beginning; but, he said, he was scared and didn’t know what to do.
Assistant Prosecutor Marc Morrison said he believed this was a case of shaken baby syndrome, but the defendant has never come forward with details of what actually happened.
"Obviously his actions are horrible, but we’re not saying he’s a killer," Morrison said. "We’re not here today saying there was intent to kill the baby, but he still needs to be held responsible because, although he’s sorry, it won’t bring back Roberto."
The defendant’s attorney, Thomas Strickland, asked for the minimum sentence since the defendant had no prior record, felt remorse and the act was less than intentional.
Pedraza Jr. said he could not understand why the mother of his children wrote such a letter to the court, saying he thought she still loved him. "I wish she was here so I could apologize," he said. "It was an accident and I’m hurt, too. I’ve forever lost my son and now my daughter."
Pedraza and Whitney also have a 3-year-old daughter.
"Everybody suffers here," said the judge, who accepted the plea deal. "If there was any evidence or reason to believe this was intended, this would be a different matter."
"But a child was placed in a situation of trust and died by your hands," Bowen said to Pedraza Jr.
Bowen sentenced Pedraza Jr. to 30 years in prison with 10 years suspended, and remanded him to the Marshall County Jail. Several family members wept and told the defendant they loved him. Pedraza bowed his head and did not respond.