A Florida man who suffocated his 7-week-old son by shoving a baby wipe down his throat accepted a 45-year plea deal on Tuesday.
Though Joseph Walsh, 36, was indicted on first-degree murder charge for the September 2015 death of his son Chance Walsh, he was convicted of second-degree murder and aggravated child abuse as part of the plea deal.
The Bradenton Herald reported that the deal was offered following the baby’s mother suicide while behind bars. Kristen Bury, 33, also took a plea deal in January 2016 for her role in Chance’s death and was sentenced to 25 years in prison. The baby’s mother reportedly removed the wipes from Chance’s throat but did not call 911.
Bury, who was set to testify against Joseph as part of the agreement, took her life in jail on September 10, 2016. Because of her suicide, a recording of Bury describing how Joseph treated their child became inadmissible in court.
State Attorney Ed Brodsky alleged that the father beat his son in a drug-fueled rage before suffocating him, leaving the baby to gasp for air for several hours before dying in his crib.
Bury reportedly complained about the smell of Chance’s decomposing body several days later, leading Joseph to wrap the 7-week-old in garbage bags and discard him in the closet. The pair subsequently buried him in the woods before leaving town. In October 2015, Bury led detectives to Chance’s remains in a shallow grave.
Without an eyewitness, prosecutors ditched hopes of landing a capital conviction.
“We have a duty to evaluate the evidence and make the best decision in the case,” said Craig Schaeffer, the chief assistant to the state attorney, according to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. “We have a horrible and tragic case. No seven-week-old child deserves to be treated this way or end up this way, especially by the people who are supposed to care and protect them.”
Joseph appeared emotionless as Judge Charles Roberts handed down the 45-year sentence. He also showed no signs of remorse as family members read their statements.
“I wanted to look you in the face and tell you [that] you stole my family from me. You stole everything from us,” Kim Millwater, Bury’s stepmother, said.
“I hate you and I hope you rot in hell.”
Assistant state attorneys Schaeffer and Suzanne O’Donnell concluded in a statement: “Joseph Walsh will likely die in prison.”
[Featured Image: Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office]