A suspect was allowed to withdraw his guilty plea without being questioned.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Irrin Donley said he didn't mean it when he confessed last month to killing his girlfriend's 9-month-old baby.
Instead of being sentenced Monday on an involuntary manslaughter charge, to which he'd pleaded guilty April 3, Donley said he wanted to withdraw the plea and go to trial.
Judge Robert G. Lisotto of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court granted the request without comment or question, and said a trial date will be scheduled as soon as possible.
Donley, 23, of Magnolia Avenue, has been held in the county jail for nearly three years awaiting trial. He was charged with murder in 1999 in the death of VonTay Welch of Auburndale Avenue, who was his girlfriend's son.
He pleaded guilty to the reduced charge, which carries a shorter prison term.
Donley was watching the boy while the mother, Tisha Rozier, was at school. Authorities said the baby stopped breathing because Donley hit him. The baby was on life support for about four days before he died Oct. 19, 1998, at Forum Health Tod Children's Hospital.
Rozier, 22, of East Auburndale Avenue, was charged with child endangering for leaving the baby with Donley. She is scheduled for trial June 13 before Judge Lisotto.
Donley denied hitting the baby, but failed a polygraph test during which police asked him about striking the infant. Defense attorney Dennis DiMartino said that's why Donley agreed to the plea bargain in the first place.
Surprised: DiMartino said he was unaware of Donley's change of heart until he showed up in court for sentencing Monday.
"I was just as shocked as everyone else," he said. "I just thought we would come in today and get the sentence and move on with this."
He said Donley changed his mind after consulting with family members and now says he is innocent.
Several of the baby's relatives were in the courtroom Monday, expecting to see Donley sentenced. They were dismayed when they heard of the turn of events.
"It comes as a shock that the life of this child is not valued enough to come to a decision," said Patrick Reed of Youngstown, VonTay's uncle.
Judge Lisotto also approved DiMartino's request to withdraw as Donley's lawyer. DiMartino said he believes it would be in Donley's best interest to have someone new appointed for the trial.