A judge convicted an Illinois man Tuesday of first-degree murder and aggravated battery to a child for the 2011 beating death of a 3-year-old boy.
The Chicago Tribune reports Lake County Circuit Court Judge Mark Levitt found Thomas Albea guilty in a bench trial after hearing two days of testimony.
Albea was accused of punching his girlfriend’s son, X'Zavion Charleston, several times in the stomach after the young boy let slip an expletive while playing the video game “Mortal Kombat.”
The boy’s mother, who was reportedly upstairs in the couple’s Waukegan, Illinois, apartment when the incident occurred, took X’Zavion to the hospital when she noticed something was wrong with the boy while trying to feed him.
The Daily Herald reported in September 2011, that the child was flown from Vista West Hospital in Waukegan to Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago where he later died from internal injuries.
Police questioned Albea, who was 18 at the time, about the boy’s injuries. He told investigators he had grown frustrated with the boy and hit him repeatedly in the abdominal area, according to the Daily Herald.
Police initially charged Albea with aggravated battery of a child, aggravated battery, and aggravated domestic battery. The murder charge was added later.
Levitt heard testimony during the trial from a Cook County medical examiner who described the boy’s internal injuries as “catastrophic.” Levitt also watched a videotaped statement from Albea in which he said he hit X’Zavion “four or five” times.
Albea’s attorney, Gillian Gosch, requested the bench trial rather than having it heard before a jury. In her closing arguments she asked the judge to consider finding her client not guilty or convicting him of the lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter. Gosch claimed Albea never intended to kill or seriously harm the child and pointed out that he even helped his girlfriend take the boy to the hospital once she realized how seriously he was injured.
But Levitt said Albea’s actions were reckless, citing the size difference between the defendant and the victim. He also referenced photos of the child’s injuries.
“To say that they were alarming is a great understatement,” Levitt said.
Assistant state's attorney Eric Kalata argued that Albea tried to hide how seriously the boy was injured by minimizing the extent of the beating.
“You don't punch a 3-year-old in the stomach, and you don't punch a 3-year-old in the stomach again and again and again,” Kalata said.
After delivering the guilty verdict, Levitt revoked Albea’s bail and scheduled sentencing for April 22. At the sentencing hearing Albea, now 22, could be sent to prison for 20 to 60 years.