A man charged with murder in the 2018 death of a 5-year-old boy who doctors said was “severely beaten” pleaded guilty Tuesday to a lesser charge.
Daniel T. Pope, 29, pleaded guilty in Allen Superior Court to aggravated battery, and a plea agreement calls for him to spend 25 years in prison.
Prosecutors have agreed to dismiss the murder charge.
Benjamyn Otto McKinney Frederick died March 12, 2018, after his mother found him March 8 on the bathroom floor of their Gay Street home. He wasn't breathing and his lips were blue, but he was warm to the touch, according to court documents.
Pope, who lived at the home with Benjamyn and the boy's mother, wasn't sure what to do, a probable cause affidavit states. He reportedly told the woman to call her mother.
Benjamyn's grandmother told them to call 911.
The boy was “severely beaten” and had “numerous defensive wounds in addition to his brutal wounds on his chest wall and all up and down his left side and on his genitalia,” a trauma surgeon told investigators. A doctor who performed an autopsy told police the boy would have survived had emergency crews been called sooner.
The death was ruled a homicide a week later, when the Allen County coroner's office said the cause of death was neck compression.
Pope was arrested March 26, 2018.
A four-day trial had been scheduled to start next week, and Pope said in court Tuesday morning he wanted more time to review a plea agreement because “this is my life right here.” Pope entered the guilty plea a few hours later, after Allen County Prosecutor Karen Richards responded that the plea was to expire Wednesday afternoon.
Police said Pope told them he had last seen Benjamyn about 10:30 a.m. March 8. The boy was unresponsive, and Pope said he performed CPR.
The grandmother was called more than an hour-and-a-half later, court documents allege.
In an interview with detectives, the boy's mother initially said she hit Benjamyn with a belt but took back the statement. She said Pope told her to lie, and she was afraid of him.
He struck her and Benjamyn, she told them. Once, he kicked her in the side when she said she didn't want to go outside with him, she said.
Days before Benjamyn was rushed to the hospital, she said Pope whipped the child with a television cord. She also said she heard him beating the boy but hadn't seen it.
The plea agreement spares Pope at least 20 years behind bars. A murder conviction in Indiana carries a penalty of at least 45 years in prison.
He will spend five years on probation after his sentence is served.