BARTOW - A Tampa Bay area man was sentenced Monday to life in prison for beating his girlfriend's 4-year-old son to death in central Florida.
As part of a deal with Polk County prosecutors, Marton Pal, 22, pleaded guilty to aggravated child abuse and first-degree murder. Without the plea deal, he faced a potential death sentence.
Family members of the victim, Evan Watkins, didn't speak at Monday's hearing, but Pal took the chance to speak to them.
"I know I can't look at you in the eyes like a man," Pal said. "I lost all self-respect for myself."
Pal said he can't imagine how bad they hurt from the "immeasurable pain" that he caused.
"There is no excuse," he said. "It doesn't make any sense."
Pal was babysitting Evan in September 2011 when the fatal beating occurred, authorities said. According to The Ledger, Pal lived in Seminole but often stayed with the boy's mother in Lakeland.
An autopsy concluded the boy was killed by blunt force abdominal trauma. He had a tear in the connective tissue that holds together a person's abdominal organs. Pal initially claimed Evan was accidentally injured at a park, but he later admitted that he was frustrated and angry because the boy's mother wouldn't discipline him. A report says Pal would make up for the lack of discipline by inflicting injury to the boy when his mother wasn't around.