Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Mother's boyfriend found guilty of killing north Tampa boy, 3

Michell Blanco’s attorney claimed that a fall caused the 3-year-old to hit his head twice.

Michell Blanco’s attorney claimed that a fall caused the 3-year-old to hit his head twice.

TAMPA — After two days of testimony from medical experts and law enforcement officials, the would-be weapon used to kill 3-year-old Alexis Garcia remains a mystery.

But for the jury, the graphic images of Garcia's twice-fractured skull and the knowledge that his sole caretaker that day in May 2010 was his mother's boyfriend were enough. It didn't matter whether the boyfriend, Michell Blanco, 31, had used his fist or a baseball bat.

After five hours of deliberation, the jury found him guilty Thursday of child abuse and second-degree murder, for which he could be sentenced to life in prison. Blanco was charged with first-degree murder, though jurors could also consider second-degree murder and manslaughter.

"That little boy told you, his body told you what happened to him," prosecutor Rita Peters said in her closing statement. Blanco "did something to that child that caused him to die."

Blanco's attorney, Rick Hermida, said the case was an example of police officers and doctors rushing to judgement and hastily labeling the boy a victim of child abuse.

"This becomes just another mama's-boyfriend-did-it case," in the minds of law enforcement officials, he said.

Speaking after the verdict, Hermida said he was disappointed, but gratified that the jury had rejected the first-degree murder charge, which would have come with a mandatory life sentence. Blanco's sentencing is set for early June.

In the defense's narrative, Blanco was babysitting the toddler at the couple's apartment on N Dale Mabry Highway while the boy's mother, Itzaira DeJesus, 25, went to work cleaning houses in Brandon. Garcia was chasing ducks near a pond behind the apartment complex when he fell on a concrete walkway and hit his head on a footbridge's wooden railing. The sudden impact sent the boy flying backward onto the concrete, Hermida said, adding, "what really happened wasn't a simple fall."

But doctors testified that it was highly unlikely that a 3-year-old's pliable skull, built to weather the traumas of birth and the playground, would crack in two places from a fall. His injuries would have made sense if he'd been in a high-speed car accident or hit with a blunt object, assistant medical examiner Leszek Chrostowski testified. Even if the toddler had been running at top speed, as the defense claimed, it was doubtful Garcia could generate enough momentum to do significant damage on impact, Chrostowski said.

Reflecting on the verdict, Anibal Nieves, 55, the toddler's paternal grandfather, said he was relieved the four-year legal saga had ended in a satisfying conviction. He'd hardly known his grandson, he said, but the boy's death still felt like a wound, re-opened every time the trial was postponed.

"We didn't see the kid for three years," Nieves said, "but he was ours."

Mother's boyfriend found guilty of killing north Tampa boy, 3 04/17/14 [Last modified: Thursday, April 17, 2014 11:02pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tim Tebow Week: 12 stories from his Tampa Bay tour

    Minors

    Alas, Tim Tebow Week — eight baseball games in eight nights that reunited Tebow with his Tampa Bay friends and admirers — is over. The fun ended Thursday night.

    St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow meets fans and signs autographs before the beginning of the Mets at Threshers game at Spectrum Field on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 in Clearwater. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times

  2. Democrat Philip Levine won't attack Trump. Can he be Florida governor?

    Perspective

    If he decides to run, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine will be the most enigmatic and unpredictable candidate for Florida governor in 2018.

    Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is introduced before speaking at a Tampa Tiger Bay Club meeting at the Ferguson Law Center in Tampa on May 19. (LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times)
  3. What you need to know for Friday, Aug. 18

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Read 'Hellfire from Above,' inside the Tampa Electric Co. power plant accident that left five people dead. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  4. Tampa is training ground for Team USA inline skating

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — The United States once dominated the sport known as international outdoor inline speed skating.

    Cotton Yarborough is one of five people from the Tampa Bay area on the national inline speed skating team. The team is competing in the world championships Aug. 27 in China. [Courtesy of Frank Holland]
  5. Grocery and hotel deals in reach for Tampa Encore project

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — After failing to land both Publix and Walmart, the Tampa Housing Authority says it is close to a deal to bring another well-known grocer to its Encore project.

    The Tampa Housing Authority's Encore project has housing like The Reed, pictured, but no retail. It is in talks to bring a grocer and two hotels to the site on the west side of Nebraska Avenue close to downtown Tampa.