TAMPA — "How helpless this 2-year-old was, how unimaginable his pain.
"The sentence will fit this crime," promised Hillsborough Circuit Judge Emmett Battles.
On Thursday night, after a jury deliberated three hours, Battles sentenced Wilfredo Reyes, 29, to life in prison without parole for a fatal beating he gave his girlfriend's toddler son at a Tampa apartment in 2010.
Besides the first-degree murder sentence, the judge added a consecutive 30-year prison term for aggravated child abuse.
On the witness stand, Reyes defended himself earlier Thursday by offering a confession.
He admitted he struck the boy, Yandel Martinez, in the stomach because the toddler had pestered his sister and wet his pants. Reyes admitted he then put Yandel in a closet for 30 minutes for a "timeout."
And he admitted that when the child later collapsed and died outside, his claim to police that Yandel fell down the stairs was only wishful thinking.
Reyes said he didn't mean to hit the child hard enough to rupture blood vessels below his abdomen.
"I didn't think it was because of me the baby died," he told jurors Thursday. "At the moment the cops showed up, my state of mind was that he fell down the stairs."
Assistant State Attorney Scott Harmon reminded the jury that an autopsy revealed many other injuries, including bruises under Yandel's scalp, and bruises on his groin and penis, which Harmon said were punishment for failing potty training.
Referring to Reyes' statement that he carried Yandel for help after the child collapsed, Harmon asked: "Did you feel or hear the blood sloshing inside his body?" Reyes answered only "no."
Yandel died on Sept. 6, 2010, during a barbecue at the River Garden Apartments on N Howard Avenue, where Reyes and Yandel's mother, Yasmin Torres, had just moved.
When Tampa police arrived, Reyes told them the child had fallen down concrete stairs outside their apartment. Police were skeptical because they could find no signs of cuts or bruises on Yandel's elbows and knees.
Reyes later admitted he had disciplined Yandel before the cookout. Pressed for detail, he said he inadvertently struck the child hard in the stomach.
He told police, "Wow, I hit him hard and he went down. I knew I'd hurt him."
On Thursday, Reyes said investigators pressured him into saying things he didn't mean.
Prosecutor Harmon told jurors that Reyes misled paramedics trying to revive Yandel, never telling them that the child had been hit in the stomach with enough force to make him vomit.
"He stood by in the last seconds of this little boy's life and lied to people trying to save him," Harmon said.
John Barry can be reached at (813) 226-3383 or email@example.com.