Man seeks separate trials in child death and animal abuse cases

2013-01-07T15:50:00Z 2013-01-08T00:50:09Z Man seeks separate trials in child death and animal abuse casesBob Kasarda bob.kasarda@nwi.com, (219) 548-4345 nwitimes.com
January 07, 2013 3:50 pm  • 

VALPARAISO | A Liberty Township man is arguing it would be unfair if he is tried at the same time on charges of causing the death of his live-in girlfriend's 7-month-old son and mutilating an animal.

A hearing is set for Feb. 4 on the request to sever the counts in the case against 24-year-old Benjamin Willis II.

Willis denies causing the death of Keagan Fishel, who died March 10 of blunt force trauma to the head, suffered multiple skull fractures and hemorrhages resulting from "violent and extremely forceful" action, according to court documents.

The boy's mother, Sasha Sabates, told police she found her son during the early afternoon of March 8 in his crib and saw he had vomited on himself and looked very pale, documents show. Sabates said she discovered the injuries after taking a shower, during which time Willis was still in bed, police said.

Willis offered alternative explanations, including that a former girlfriend sneaked into the house, the boy fell or Sabates dropped him during a bath, documents state.

The animal abuse charges Willis faces stem from incidents in 2009 and between Feb. 21 and March 8, 2012.

One of Willis' former girlfriends told investigators that while living with Willis, she saw him hold his dog up by the neck and punch the animal in its face, documents state.

A former roommate of Willis also told investigators he saw Willis punch his dogs on multiple occasions, including one incident when he held a whining dog while beating it in the head and the side until it defecated, documents state.

Defense attorney Clay Patton argues Willis will be "denied a fair determination of his guilt or innocence" and "prejudiced in his defense" if the two, unrelated accusations are heard together at trial.

The case is scheduled to go to trial May 13.

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