Aspen man guilty in death of toddler
March 5, 2002
An Aspen man pleaded guilty to charges of child abuse resulting in death in Pitkin County District Court on Monday, nearly five months after his arrest for the shaking death of his fiancee’s child.
Kelly Garcia, 29, showed little emotion Monday afternoon as he pleaded guilty to the charge, a result of the October death of 19-month-old Benjamin Andre Garcia (no relation to the defendant). District Court Judge J.E. DeVilbiss briefly reviewed Garcia’s plea agreement before accepting it. He questioned Garcia’s motives for his plea.
“Because I’m guilty,” Garcia answered.
“No question about it?” DeVilbiss asked.
“No, sir,” Garcia said.
The charge, a Class 3 felony, can result in a minimum sentence of four years and a maximum of 16 years in jail.
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Garcia was arrested last fall after an autopsy by the Arapahoe County Coroner’s Office determined that Benjamin Andre Garcia had been killed by “complications of a blunt impact to the head” and “shaken impact syndrome.” Court records indicate that Garcia initially told police the baby had fallen while trying to climb out of his crib and hit his head on the carpeted floor.
Benjamin’s mother, 18-year-old Tessa Garcia, said she left the baby alone with Kelly Garcia for about 15 minutes while visiting her mother in a nearby office building in the Aspen Airport Business Center. Kelly had proposed marriage to Tessa earlier that afternoon, and Kelly offered to watch the baby while Tessa showed her mother her engagement ring.
Tessa Garcia told police she was returning from her visit with her mother when she saw Kelly Garcia run into the parking lot of their apartment building with Benjamin in his arms. Kelly Garcia claimed that he watched the baby as he tried to escape his crib – the fall occurred, Garcia said, when the baby became startled by Garcia’s presence in the room and had let go of the crib railing.
Both Garcias, along with Tessa’s mother, rushed the child to Aspen Valley Hospital while Tessa’s mother attempted to perform CPR. An AVH physician told police that the toddler suffered several injuries that were not consistent with a minor fall, as Garcia had claimed. His arrest warrant stated that there was even some evidence of strangulation.
The baby was airlifted to The Children’s Hospital in Denver a few hours after his assessment at AVH. He died later that day.
Garcia was arrested a few days after Benjamin’s death while visiting family in Fountain, Colo.
He will be sentenced on April 29.