A Michigan City man has agreed to serve a 20-year prison sentence for the beating death of his girlfriend's two-year old son.
Tommy Shannon, 23, pleaded guilty Thursday to battery causing death, a class A felony. In exchange, prosecutors agreed to dismiss a murder charge, which carries a 45 to 65 year sentence.
LaPorte County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Rob Neary said the deal was struck because of issues with the case that made proving a murder charge against Shannon too risky presented to a jury.
He said intent must be proven to land a murder conviction, but uncertainties about the exact cause of death and other evidence, like conflicting witness statements, clouded whether Shannon actually meant to kill the boy.
''We believe that the proposal that's been submitted to the court is not an unreasonable disposition in light of all of that,'' Neary said.
Neary would not provide more specifics about the case with the plea agreement still under advisement by the court.
Authorities previously stated in August of 2013 that the 2-year-old boy, Nizeir Brown, was punched in the stomach hard enough to rupture his pancreas.
In addition, the autopsy indicated Nizeir had been subject to physical abuse prior to his death and previously spent a week in the hospital with a high fever that raised the suspicions of doctors.
Shannon was living with the boy's mother, Regina Brown, along with the victim and two other children in a home on E. 7th St.
Neary would not comment if the other children had been abused to avoid shedding too much publicity on the case before the court decides whether to accept the terms of the plea.
Regina Brown previously agreed to a 10-year prison sentence for class B felony neglect of a dependent under a guilty plea that remains under review by the court.
It's alleged Brown knew her son was being abused but failed to do anything to stop it.
Her mother, Derris Baylor, also has charges of obstruction of justice and failure to make a report still pending for allegedly instructing a four year old boy in the home how to talk to the police so Shannon would not get in trouble.
If the LaPorte County judge accepts the terms of the plea offered by Shannon, he will be sentenced October 2.