Jury finds Liberty Township man guilty in baby's death

2013-11-15T18:45:00Z 2013-11-16T23:44:09Z Jury finds Liberty Township man guilty in baby's deathBob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com
November 15, 2013 6:45 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | A jury found a Liberty Township man guilty Friday of two felony charges in connection with the death of his girlfriend's 7-month-old son.

Benjamin Willis II, 25, was found guilty of Class A felony charges of neglect of dependent and battery. The jury found him not guilty of a lesser Class D felony charge of battery.

Willis was accused of injuring Keagan Fishel on March 8, 2012. Fishel was found in his crib with a head injury and died later.

A jury took about four hours to deliberate on the three charges.

Willis was taken into custody at the Porter County Courthouse and will be sentenced at 1 p.m. Dec. 16. Each Class A felony conviction carries a possible sentence of 20 to 50 years.

Willis chose Friday not to testify on his own behalf.

The defense presented just one witness following several days of evidence by prosecutors.

Melissa Mihal, a close friend of the dead child's mother, Sasha Sabates, said Sabates told her just hours after Fishel was hospitalized that the child fell from her arms in the shower shortly before he was discovered with a fractured skull in his crib.

Sabates reportedly told Mihal the child whimpered following the fall, but appeared to be fine otherwise.

Mihal said Sabates told her that after returning to the shower, Willis, who had been in bed, came into the bathroom to tell her the child had thrown up in his crib.

Sabates had testified Wednesday that she, not Willis, had discovered the injured child after her shower.

Dr. Ken Obenson, a forensic pathologist who conducted an autopsy on Fishel, testified Thursday that while it was "within the realm of possibilities" the child's injuries could have resulted from either a fall in the plastic bathtub and/or from a crib, he said the severity of the damage makes those explanations unlikely.

Earlier Friday, Porter County Sheriff's Department Lt. Eric Jones testified that Sabates also told him her baby had fallen in the bathtub and had rolled off a bed two weeks before the baby's death while she was folding clothes.

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