Griffith man sentenced to 30 years in fatal neglect case

2012-11-20T17:00:00Z 2012-11-21T11:50:04Z Griffith man sentenced to 30 years in fatal neglect caseSusan Brown susan.brown@nwi.com, (219) 662-5325 nwitimes.com
November 20, 2012 5:00 pm  • 

CROWN POINT | A Griffith man was sentenced to 30 years in prison Tuesday in the 2010 death of his then-girlfriend's 3-year-old son.

In accepting a plea deal in the midst of his murder trial last month, Levi Hiatt, 28, admitted to injuring Comer Watkins and then not obtaining medical attention for the child.

In May, Hiatt had rejected a plea deal in which he was required to plead guilty to felony neglect for which he faced a maximum 50-year sentence. He was subsequently charged with murder. 

Testimony during Hiatt's trial showed the boy died from a subdural hematoma left untreated for at least 17 hours after the injury. The boy also suffered significant injury to his genitals.

Hiatt told police he had jumped on the bed to wake the sleeping boy after the boy's mother left for work. Hiatt's right knee landed on the boy's genitals, causing severe swelling and bruising.

Taking the boy into the bathroom, Hiatt told authorities he yanked on the boy's calves while attempting to remove the child's pants. During the struggle the child struck his head on the tub and floor.

At the close of the state's case in the second week of trial, Hiatt's Valparaiso attorney, Larry Rogers, sought a directed verdict on the murder charge from the presiding judge, Special Judge Thomas Webber.

Webber found Hiatt not guilty on the murder charge, citing lack of evidence that Hiatt had intentionally killed the child.

Hiatt was immediately offered a plea deal in which he admitted to neglect and agreed to a 30-year sentence, which was issued Tuesday by Lake Criminal Court Judge Diane Boswell.

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