WARREN - A 35-year-old Bazetta man avoided a murder trial that was set to begin Monday and instead pleaded guilty to the involuntary manslaughter of a 4-year-old boy. He was sentenced to 11 years in prison.
Sporting a shaved head and full beard, Scott Walker said nothing as Trumbull County Common Pleas Judge Andrew Logan imposed the agreed-to sentence in connection with Walker's fatal punch to the stomach of the young son of his one-time girlfriend in 2013. It was the maximum sentenced allowable for the first-degree felony that was incorporated in a bill of information.
Monday was Walker's birthday.
Assistant county prosecutor Diane Barber told the judge the punch caused internal bleeding that led to the death of Charles Partin.
She also said Walker's girlfriend at the time, Jennifer Light, 34, is scheduled to be sentenced to between five and 10 years by Logan Aug. 19 on related charges.
Light's father, Gordon Light, blurted out in court that Walker deserved more than 11 years before he left the courtroom.
Tribune Chronicle photos / R. Michael Semple
Scott Walker, left, confers with Ohio Public Defender Matt Pentz before pleading guilty Monday morning to the involuntary manslaughter of a 4-year-old boy.
Barber said as the case developed a clear conflict between her medical expert and an expert retained by the defense developed over the precise cause of death. A doctor who was prepared to testify for the defense was going to say that it was chronic abuse of the boy that led to the death.
Walker was indicted on murder charges that could have meant 15 years to life behind bars, but Barber said the plea was offered after the conflict rather than risk a jury trial.
Walker lived in Champion before moving into the Bazetta home of Light and her son.
Light pleaded guilty in October to manslaughter and obstruction of justice charges charges in the June 19, 2013, death of Partin and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in the case against Walker.
Bazetta police and firefighters were called at 3:15 a.m. June 15 to the home at 2910 N. Park Extension, where family members said the boy wasn't breathing. Partin died later that day at Trumbull Memorial Hospital.
The Trumbull County Coroner's Office ruled the death a homicide by blunt force trauma to the abdomen.
Bazetta Detective Joe Sofchek said he photographed a tear-shaped bruise on Nicholas' stomach near his belly button, and the bruise matched a similar bruise on the knuckle of the hand Walker used to punch the child.
Light first told authorities that her son had been treated at a Warren hospital for drinking carpet cleaner. The mother later recanted on that account after Sofchek confirmed the boy had not been treated at a Warren hospital. Light then told detectives she saw Walker punch her son a day before he died.
Although Walker denied striking Nicholas with a closed fist, he subsequently demonstrated for detectives how he struck the child with a backhanded blow, Sofchek said. The detective said he noticed the bruised and swollen knuckle on the back of Walker's right hand.
Sofchek was assisted in the case by Detective Jolene Marcello of the Trumbull County Sheriff's Office.