Make us your home page

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

  1. No. 16 USF hangs on at Tulane, off to first 7-0 start


    NEW ORLEANS — After half a season of mismatches, USF found itself in a grudge match Saturday night.

    USF quarterback Quinton Flowers (9) runs for a touchdown against Tulane during the first half of an NCAA college football game in New Orleans, La., Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Derick E. Hingle) LADH103
  2. Lightning buries Penguins (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Those wide-open, end-to-end, shoot-at-will games are a lot of fun to watch, especially when those shots are going in the net. But if the players had their druthers, they would rather have a more controlled pace, one with which they can dictate the action.

    Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Slater Koekkoek (29) advances the puck through the neutral zone during the first period of Saturday???‚??„?s (10/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  3. Spain planning to strip Catalonia of its autonomy


    BARCELONA, Spain — The escalating confrontation over Catalonia's independence drive took its most serious turn Saturday as Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of Spain announced he would remove the leadership of the restive region and initiate a process of direct rule by the central government in Madrid.

    Demonstrators in Barcelona protest the decision to take control of Catalonia to derail the independence movement.
  4. Funeral held for soldier at center of political war of words (w/video)


    COOPER CITY — Mourners remembered not only a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman but his three comrades who died with him.

    The casket of Sgt. La David T. Johnson of Miami Gardens, who was killed in an ambush in Niger. is wheeled out after a viewing at the Christ The Rock Church, Friday, Oct. 20, 2017  in Cooper City, Fla. (Pedro Portal/Miami Herald via AP) FLMIH102
  5. Chemical industry insider now shapes EPA policy


    WASHINGTON — For years, the Environmental Protection Agency has struggled to prevent an ingredient once used in stain-resistant carpets and nonstick pans from contaminating drinking water.

    This is the Dow chemical plant near Freeport, Texas. Before the 2016 election, Dow had been in talks with the EPA to phase out the pesticide chlorpyrifos, which is blamed for disabilities in children. Dow is no longer willing to compromise.