CARROLL COUNTY, Ga. - A west Georgia man pleaded guilty Wednesday to second-degree murder and first-degree child cruelty in the death of his 3-year-old stepson, authorities said.
Joshua David Richards, the son of Carrollton police Chief Joel Richards, was accused of beating his stepson to death in January 2018, AJC.com previously reported. At the time, Joshua Richards claimed it was an accident resulting from a fall.
The child, Brentley Gore, was injured at the Hickory Falls Apartments. The boy’s mother, who police believe was sleeping in a nearby room during the attack, called 911. Richards, who was 21 years old when he was arrested, was accused of causing “blunt force trauma,” according to his indictments.
Prosecutors said the child vomited while in bed, which is when Richards took him into the bathroom to wash off. He allegedly forced the child to get into a cold bath, where Gore fell at least once. The child fell again while getting out of the tub, and Richards knocked him down again afterward, prosecutors said.
Richards put Gore on a counter near the sink, which he then fell from, hitting the back of his head on the mirror, prosecutors said. He then put the child on a towel on the floor before allegedly pulling the towel out from under him, causing the child to hit his head again.
The child was then put to bed while Richards looked up medical conditions, unconsciousness and head trauma online, prosecutors said. Richards also allegedly admitted to using a belt to discipline the 3-year-old, which resulted in bruises across his body.
The child suffered multiple skull fractures, brain bleeding, a stroke and seizures before dying at an Atlanta-area hospital.
Richards faced nine charges, including two counts of felony murder, one count of malice murder, aggravated battery and three more child cruelty charges, but those were dropped as part of the plea deal, District Attorney Herb Cranford said.
Richards was sentenced to 25 years in prison without parole followed by 25 years on probation, Cranford said. He will receive time served for the days he spent in jail following his arrest.
Cranford added that the child’s parents were consulted before the state accepted the plea agreement, and they “are satisfied with this sentence in lieu of what would have been an emotionally difficult trial.”
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