Man pleads guilty to son’s mur­der, re­ceives life sen­tence

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - Arkansas - STEVEN MROSS

HOT SPRINGS — A man charged with cap­i­tal mur­der in the 2015 death of his 3-month-old son was sen­tenced to life in prison Fri­day af­ter plead­ing guilty to first-de­gree mur­der in Gar­land County Cir­cuit Court.

James Antonio-Car­los Page, 38, of Hot Springs has re­mained in cus­tody in lieu of $1 mil­lion bond since his ar­rest Nov. 6, 2015. He was set to stand trial next week on the cap­i­tal-mur­der charge and pros­e­cu­tors had in­di­cated they planned to seek the death penalty, but Page opted to plead guilty to the lesser charge and will spend the rest of his life in prison.

“I spoke with the vic­tim’s mother and she wanted him to have a life sen­tence,” deputy prose­cu­tor Kara Petro said Fri­day. “She never wanted him to get out of prison. There is no dif­fer­ence be­tween life for cap­i­tal or life for mur­der first.

“A death-penalty case that has a death sen­tence granted has many years of nu­mer­ous ap­peals and other post-con­vic­tion reme­dies. He won’t be able to ap­peal his plea of life, there­fore it won’t con­tinue for years keep­ing the vic­tim’s mother from clo­sure.”

Pros­e­cut­ing At­tor­ney Michelle Lawrence said Fri­day that Page had no sig­nif­i­cant

prior crim­i­nal his­tory, which could have been a fac­tor at trial.

Page was ini­tially charged with first-de­gree do­mes­tic bat­tery at the time of his ar­rest, but the charge was up­graded to cap­i­tal mur­der two days later af­ter the vic­tim, Zay­den Page, died at Arkansas Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal in Lit­tle Rock.

A mo­tion for Page to un­dergo a mental ex­am­i­na­tion was filed Feb. 10, 2016, and the ex­am­i­na­tion was com­pleted May 26, 2016, at the State Hos­pi­tal. The mental eval­u­a­tion re­port was sealed

as part of an or­der lim­it­ing pre­trial pub­lic­ity, but Page was found to be fit to pro­ceed at a hear­ing June 20, 2016.

Clay Janske, Page’s at­tor­ney, said that in the past two weeks, af­ter talk­ing with the doc­tors at Arkansas Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal and the med­i­cal ex­am­iner, “it be­came clear to us [Page] was in bad trou­ble. The best-case sce­nario was to get life in prison. There was no rea­son to roll the dice since there was a real strong chance of him get­ting the death penalty with the ev­i­dence against him.”

Ac­cord­ing to the af­fi­davit, Dr. Karen Farst, an emer­gency room physi­cian at Arkansas Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal,

no­ti­fied Hot Springs po­lice Nov. 6, 2015, about a 3-month-old boy brought into the emer­gency room with in­juries that in­cluded a burn around his neck, a bro­ken col­lar­bone, rib frac­tures and mul­ti­ple bruises to his head and face.

Farst said the vic­tim had been in the cus­tody of his fa­ther, iden­ti­fied as Page, all day and that Page at­trib­uted the in­juries to a fall, the af­fi­davit said. Farst stated in her opin­ion it was im­pos­si­ble that the in­juries were sus­tained from a fall.

Hos­pi­tal per­son­nel said that at one point Page stated he was leav­ing the hos­pi­tal and go­ing back to his home state of Alabama, ac­cord­ing

to the af­fi­davit.

In his state­ment to po­lice, Page said he had taken his fi­ancee to work ear­lier that morn­ing and ar­rived back at the res­i­dence around 10:30 a.m. He said the baby was cry­ing and con­tin­ued to cry, so Page picked him up from his car seat and “shook him vi­o­lently.”

Af­ter some time, when the baby con­tin­ued cry­ing, he said he threw the vic­tim into his car seat and that the vic­tim con­tin­ued to cry af­ter be­ing thrown, ac­cord­ing to the state­ment.

The af­fi­davit noted that Page is ap­prox­i­mately 6 feet 2 inches tall and was stand­ing up hold­ing the vic­tim when he threw him into the

car seat, which was lo­cated on the floor.

Page ad­mit­ted to po­lice that af­ter about 30 min­utes he no­ticed the child was not breath­ing and took him to the hos­pi­tal. The child was ini­tially taken to CHI St. Vin­cent Hot Springs and then air­lifted to Arkansas Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal.

Petro said Page tried to min­i­mize his guilt by claim­ing he shook him and threw him into a car seat.

“The in­juries are not consistent with that story,” Petro said. “He had to have done more to the baby to cause those in­juries.”

Janske said that it came out there was ev­i­dence of pre-ex­ist­ing in­juries to the

child and that the de­fense felt like the pros­e­cu­tion would have pointed the finger at Page dur­ing a trial.

“It was just too big a risk for him to take in the hopes of maybe get­ting a term of years which likely would have been lengthy,” Janske said.

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