LAWRENCE — As the baby’s mother and other relatives sobbed in court, Alexis Medina, 26, yesterday pleaded guilty to murdering his 4-month-old son and namesake after Christmas three years ago.
Infant Alexis Medina Jr., who was nicknamed “Junior,” suffered multiple rib fractures and bruising. An autopsy revealed the cause of his death was suffocation.
Medina, a father of four who was previously jailed for 18 months for fracturing an older daughter’s skull, was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility of parole, after pleading guilty to second-degree murder of Junior, who was born on Sept. 8, 2010.
In an agreement reached between the prosecution and defense, Medina, a former machinist, pleaded guilty to second-degree, not first-degree, murder as originally charged. A first-degree murder conviction carries a penalty of life in prison without parole.
“Obviously, this is a huge loss to you. No parent should lose a child. Terrible,” said Superior Court Judge Richard Welch to Jocelyn DeJesus, 27, the baby’s mother, who gave a victim impact statement in Lawrence Superior Court yesterday morning.
“There will always be a large piece of my heart missing for my son Junior,” DeJesus told Welch. “ ... It’s like my soul died inside. I will never get to hear him cry or laugh. We will never see him grow up.”
DeJesus sat among a dozen relatives and friends in court — many crying and sobbing loudly at times. Some wore T-shirts with Junior’s pictures on them.
Police were called to the 4 Inman St., #19 apartment Medina and DeJesus shared at 10:15 a.m. on Dec. 28, 2010. The child was nonresponsive, had no pulse and was vomiting when rescuers arrived. He was taken to Lawrence General Hospital, where a heartbeat was restored, and later transferred to Tufts Medical Center in Boston where he died the next day, said prosecutor Kate MacDougall
Medina told police that Junior was face-down in his crib, and he pushed on the baby’s back to quiet him so he could sleep. DeJesus had left earlier for work, and Medina said he’d previously used this tactic to quiet the baby.
Several hours later, a grandparent, who arrived at the apartment to baby sit, found the infant was not breathing and called DeJesus, who in turn dialed 911.
MacDougall said Medina and his young family were suffering from “extreme financial distress.” The couple was struggling with two young children and fought the previous night over parenting styles, she said.
The next morning, while the infant lay on his belly, MacDougall said Medina pushed on the boy’s buttocks “essentially forcing his face into the pillow.”
An autopsy revealed a bruise on the infant’s upper left arm, bruising on two areas of his scalp caused by blunt force trauma and multiple rib fractures of different ages, MacDougall said.
Junior was also suffering from “pronounced pneumonia,” along with a form of meningitis commonly found with pneumonia.
The combination of the rib fractures and pneumonia did not allow the baby’s lungs to expand and contract normally, resulting in asphyxiation when Junior was pushed into the pillow, she said.
“This is a heartbreaking murder of a defenseless infant,” MacDougall said.
After MacDougall’s explanation of the facts of case, Welch turned to Medina, who was on the witness stand, and asked, “Did you do these things to your young child?”
“Yes, your honor,” Medina answered quietly. DeJesus burst into tears.
Both MacDougall and Medina’s defense attorney Ronald Ranta said Medina showed remorse after his son died. Medina declined when Welch asked him if he wanted to address the court yesterday.
Medina also pleaded guilty to assault and battery on a child under age 14 causing bodily injury and was sentenced to 10 to 11 years in jail, to be served concurrently with the life sentence. He was also sentenced to two years in jail, to be served concurrently, after pleading guilty to another assault and battery charge.
Lawrence Detectives Paul MacMillan and Carlos Cueva, along with state police Detective Joshua Ulrich investigated the baby’s murder. Victim advocate Christina Garcia assisted DeJesus and her family.
In closing, Welch described the baby’s murder as “incomprehensible.”
“The tragedy is incredible,” he said.
He thanked DeJesus for her impact statement, noting it takes “a lot of courage” to get on the witness stand and address a judge and courtroom. “You’ve got a lot of life to live and your daughter obviously needs you. I wish you the best of luck,” he told DeJesus.