A man accused of fatally beating his girlfriend's 9-year-old son over a missing piece of birthday cake pleaded guilty to second-degree murder Thursday and was sentenced to 30 years in prison by a judge who likened the boy's treatment to torture.
For weeks before the beating, Jack Garcia was a virtual prisoner in the Hagerstown apartment he shared with his mother, her brother and her fiancé Robert Leroy Wilson, a prosecutor said. Jack was routinely deprived of food if Wilson felt the boy hadn't exerted himself enough, and he was handcuffed to a chair or beaten with a bamboo sword if he took food without permission, the evidence showed.
"What a bleak existence this little person had," said Washington County Circuit Judge M. Kenneth Long.
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Wilson, 31, accepted responsibility for Jack's death but didn't acknowledge striking the blow that caused his death from a head injury July 5. In return, prosecutors dropped seven other charges of child abuse, assault, neglect and reckless endangerment.
Wilson, a restaurant cook, tearfully told the judge he had been under stress from tight finances, lack of sleep, a strained relationship with the mother of his own child and "all different things going on in the apartment about people not doing what they were supposed to."
Defense attorney Thomas Tamm said Wilson had been physically abused as child.
But Assistant State's Attorney Sarah Mollett-Gaumer said there was no excuse for the major role Wilson played in Jack's death.
"Jack was such a problem for stealing food? Well, maybe he was hungry," she said.
Jack's mother Oriana Garcia and maternal uncle Jacob Barajas are also charged with second-degree murder. They're scheduled for trial May 17. Neither has entered a plea.
Police have said Wilson beat Jack unconscious after Barajas handcuffed him to a bicycle lock attached to a chair as punishment for taking a piece of cake belonging to Wilson's 2-year-old daughter. A 10-year-old girl visiting that day told investigators she heard Wilson yelling, "Cough up the cake," in the room where Jack was beaten while the boy cried, "No! Stop!"
Prosecutors say Jack's mother allowed the abuse and delayed treatment for hours by sending away an ambulance that Barajas had called. Wilson called for another ambulance more than five hours later.