Friday, February 23, 2018
News Roundup

Largo man sentenced to 25 years in son's death

A Largo man was sentenced to 25 years in prison Friday for the 2011 death of his infant son.

Tracy A. Pethtel took his 11-week-old son, Austin, to a local emergency room on May 29, 2011. He couldn't wake the baby, who had been making gasping noises, Pethtel told police.

Austin died the next day at All Children's Hospital.

An officer who went to the emergency room said he saw marks around Austin's head. When a medical examiner's report revealed the infant died from blunt head trauma, Pethtel was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

In July, a jury found Pethtel guilty of aggravated manslaughter.

On Friday, State Attorneys Christie Ellis and Douglas Ellis asked the court for the maximum sentence of 30 years. The baby's mother, Jessica Ondriezek, attended the sentencing with a friend.

Pethtel's friend Justin King, 27, told 6th Circuit Judge Michael Andrews that Pethtel "was not someone without his flaws" but said he was a caring father.

"In the short time that Austin was with us, I've never seen him care as much for anything as he did for his son," King said.

After hearing from King, Judge Andrews read a letter from Pethtel's mother and heard from Pethtel's attorney, Richard Watts, who pointed out Pethtel earned his GED after his arrest.

Watts also specified that a 2006 charge of lewd and lascivious battery, eventually amended to child abuse, was the result of a high school relationship that happened when Pethtel was 17 and the girl was 14. Pethtel pleaded guilty to that child abuse charge and was on probation until 2009, according to court documents.

Judge Andrews said he understood Pethtel's history of hard work and that friends in the courtroom loved him. But he said one fact was more important.

"In the end," Andrews said "we have a dead baby."

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