Sunday, May 27, 2018
News Roundup

Prosecutor: Tampa man beat 2-year-old to death because he wet his pants

TAMPA — During a sad, weary day viewing photos of the small, battered body of Yandel Martinez on an autopsy slab, a jury was told that the 2-year-old boy died in 2010 because he wet his pants.

The jury was told Yandel bled to death internally after a head-to-toe beating — including a fatal blow to the stomach — by Wilfredo Reyes, his mother's boyfriend, before Reyes went outside to cook a family barbecue.

But Reyes' defense attorney said Yandel got only a spanking from Reyes that day and died from an accidental fall down the stairs.

Tuesday was the opening day of trial for Reyes, now 29, charged with first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse for what happened to Yandel at a Tampa apartment complex on Sept. 6 two years ago.

Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon showed graphic autopsy photos that revealed bruises under Yandel's scalp, more bruises over his entire torso, including his groin area, and a torn piece of his abdominal cavity that caused the child to bleed to death.

"What was his great offense to cause this beating?" Harmon asked in his opening statement. "The evidence will show he peed on himself. He wasn't potty-trained. It made the defendant so angry he hit the 2-year-old so hard he vomited all over himself."

Harmon said Reyes then put the child in the corner of a bedroom closet for 20 to 30 minutes as a "time out." Afterward, Reyes walked the boy across the complex to a barbecue cookout, Harmon said.

All the time, blood was filling Yandel's abdominal cavity. When Tampa police answered a 911 call, they found Yandel lying below an outside staircase, not breathing. Frantic efforts at CPR failed.

Harmon said the jury would hear a tape of Reyes' statements to police in which he gradually opened up, admitting to striking the child hard and watching him "cry and cry."

But Reyes' attorney, Gregory Hill, told jurors, "The evidence will not show murder."

Hill said Reyes did take Yandel into a bedroom to spank him — either for wetting himself or spilling juice on his pants. He said Reyes may have struck Yandel with the side of his hand as the boy flailed on the bed.

Hill said Yandel's mother then gave the child a bath, dressed him and took him to the barbecue.

While food was on the grill, Hill said, Reyes took Yandel back to the apartment for potatoes. He said Reyes left Yandel on an outside stairway, went into the kitchen and heard thumping noises outside. He found Yandel lying at the bottom of the stairs.

Hill said Reyes gave the unconscious child "two quick breaths" and carried him back to the barbecue where others called 911.

The recorded police interviews, Hill said, would show that detectives did most of the talking and put words in Reyes' mouth that he didn't mean.

Yandel's mother, Yasmin Torres, wasn't present on the first day of trial, though many family members on both sides were.

The trial before Hillsborough Circuit Judge Emmett Battles is expected to last all week.

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