BARTOW — A central Florida man faces up to 15 years in prison for beating his toddler stepson to death.
As part of a deal with Polk County prosecutors, 31-year-old Marcus Brown pleaded no contest to manslaughter today. The Ledger reports that he was previously tried for first-degree murder, but jurors couldn't reach a verdict. A new trial had been scheduled to begin this month.
Authorities say Brown repeatedly beat 2-year-old Deondray Ashe with a belt during potty training. Rescue workers responded to the Lakeland home in June 2010 and found the boy dead.
The boy's mother, Ina Brown, was sentenced to 10 years in prison last spring for failing to protect the boy. She acknowledged that she had hit the boy in the past but not the day he died.
Investigators went to a home at 1702 Fredericksburg Ave. after someone called 911 to say the toddler wasn't breathing, authorities said.
Deondray was declared dead at the scene.
According to police records, Brown twice beat the child with a belt in a three-hour span, "then put in motion a series of lies and a false alibi in an effort to conceal his actions.''
An autopsy determined the boy died of blunt trauma to the head, police said.