CROWN POINT | The girlfriend of a Gary man accused of beating his 5-year-old son to death in 2010 pleaded guilty Friday to felony neglect of a dependent.
Rochell Johnson, 34, faces a sentence of between 20 and 50 years in state prison. She is scheduled to be sentenced Jan. 4 before Lake Criminal Court Judge Clarence Murray.
In her plea agreement with Lake County prosecutors, Johnson admitted to doing nothing to help Leon Walker, who was about to turn 6, while the child was being continuously beaten by his father, Leon Burns, on the day the boy died while in their care.
The child was beaten throughout the day with his hands and feet bound and tied, suffering bruises and scratches over his entire body, authorities said.
Johnson admitted to doing nothing to help or free the boy while he begged for help.
The boy had been living with Burns, 30, and Johnson in Gary while the child's mother was in a secure drug treatment facility, authorities said.
At the time the couple were charged with the boy's murder, a veteran pathologist with the Lake County coroner's office told police he had never seen a person beaten so badly. The boy died instantly from vertebrae being separated by force from the his skull.
On the day the child died, Burns repeatedly beat the boy with a belt while the boy's hands were tied with an electrical cord so tight his fingers turned blue, court records state.
The child is reported to have been in the couple's care two to three months prior to his death. Burns admitted the boy's bruises were not all from one whipping and that he was the only one to beat the boy the day the victim died, according to court records.
Court records show Burns is scheduled to next appear Nov. 6 in Lake Criminal Court.