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Edmond Man Convicted in Child Abuse Death

11-Feb-2013

An Edmond, Oklahoma, man was convicted in Oklahoma County court after he was accused in the beating death of his girlfriend's toddler son. Rico Antwoine Berry, 28, was convicted of first degree murder and child neglect following the October 2009 death of 2-year-old Jolen Babakhani. Berry is scheduled to be sentenced later this month, and a jury has recommended a sentence of life in prison without parole on the murder complaint, accompanied by a sentence of life in prison for the neglect conviction.

According to the victim's mother, Sara Babakhani, she and the defendant had been dating for approximately 10 months when she left the child in Berry's care while she attended classes at Langston University. Babakhani said that, although she usually took the boy to day care, she kept him home because he was sick and left him in the care of her boyfriend. She said she had no concerns about leaving Jolen with Berry. However, when she returned home, she found her son unresponsive with blue lips and bruising about the head and neck. When she confronted Berry, says Babakhani, he denied knowing what had happened to the child.

Berry's child abuse defense attorney argued that the injuries the toddler sustained were inflicted accidentally as a result of horseplay. Prosecutors say the man gave three different versions of how Jolen sustained the injuries, including one in which Berry said he and the child were wrestling and he picked up the boy by the throat and slammed him to the couch twice.

As part of the prosecution, Assistant District Attorneys SuAnne Carlson and Gayland Gieger pointed out that Berry did nothing to get help for the child in spite of his obvious injuries. They say that during the day, he exchanged phone calls and texts with Jolen's mother, but never gave any indication that the child was injured.

Berry's public defender argued that his client did not realize that he had done anything wrong or unreasonable. He claimed that Sara Babakhani encouraged Berry to roughhouse with the boy in order to "toughen him up." He says that Berry did not intend to harm the child, who later died of substantial head trauma.

Berry faces the possibility of two life sentences, one without parole, at the recommendation of the jurors who convicted him. His sentencing is scheduled for February 22, 2013.



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