Parents plead guilty in death of their 1-month-old child

November 29, 2006|By Nicole Fuller | Nicole Fuller,sun reporter

The parents of a 1-month-old baby who was fatally beaten on New Year's Day 2005 pleaded guilty yesterday in the death of their son.

Joshua Watson, who was born Dec. 1, 2004, died a month later at Sinai Hospital from what the state medical examiner described as "blunt force trauma." Joshua suffered from injuries that included skull fractures, hemorrhaging and contusions to the brain, two rib fractures, a fractured right femur bone and 27 separate fractures and welts to his torso, prosecutors said.

His parents, Tanea Bullock and Lawrence Watson of the 4800 block of Liberty Heights Ave., were arrested days later and charged with first-degree murder.

In a deal with prosecutors, Joshua's mother, Bullock, 22, who has been deemed mentally ill, pleaded guilty to manslaughter and child abuse resulting in death. She faces a maximum of 40 years in prison with 20 years suspended when she is sentenced Feb. 6. She likely will serve her sentence at the Patuxent Institution, where she will receive psychiatric treatment, prosecutors said. The infant's father, Watson, 26, pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment and was sentenced to time served awaiting trial.

"This baby died on his first-month birthday," said Julie Drake, chief of the Felony Family Violence Division of the state's attorney's office and the prosecutor in the case. "He was just beaten from the week after he came home. There were older and newer injuries."

Baltimore's Department of Social Services opened a case on the family days after the baby was born -- when Joshua's parents took him to the hospital for treatment of diarrhea but discharged him without receiving treatment, alarming hospital staff. The social services agency closed the case within two days.

Bullock and Watson woke up at 5 a.m. Jan. 1, 2005, and found Joshua unresponsive, but went back to sleep, prosecutors said. Hours later, Watson called 911 and reported the baby was not breathing. Joshua was pronounced dead at Sinai at 1:33 p.m.

"If you look at the back of the baby's body," Drake said, referring to autopsy photos, "The back and buttocks are a mass of loop-shaped scars. It looked like somebody took an extension cord and beat him with it."

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