YOUNGSTOWN Man again admits he killed baby
The Magnolia Avenue man pleaded guilty once before, then changed his mind.
By BOB JACKSON
VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Irrin Donley meant it this time when he admitted killing his girlfriend's baby nearly three years ago.
It was the second time around for Donley, who pleaded guilty to an involuntary manslaughter charge Friday in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court. The charge was reduced from murder in a plea agreement with the prosecutor's office.
"I stand here today as a man," Donley, 24, of Magnolia Avenue, said just before Judge Robert Lisotto imposed the maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. "There's no running; no hiding."
Judge Lisotto said Donley will get credit for time he's spent in the county jail awaiting trial.
Neither the sentence nor Donley's statement soothed Julia Welch of Akron, the baby's paternal grandmother.
"I don't feel that 10 years is hardly enough time to pay for something that can never be replaced," she said. "If I have a dozen more grandchildren, none of them can replace VonTay."
Was baby-sitting: Donley was watching his former girlfriend's baby, VonTay Welch, in 1999 while the mother, Tisha Rozier, was in school. Police said the 9-month-old baby stopped breathing because Donley hit him.
The baby was on life support for about four days before he died Oct. 19, 1999, at Forum Health Tod Children's Hospital.
Rozier, 22, of East Auburndale Avenue, was charged with child endangering for leaving VonTay with Donley. Her trial is set for April 3 in common pleas court.
Recanted plea: Donley pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in April 2001, also in a plea agreement. But on the day he was to be sentenced, he surprised everyone, including his lawyer, by recanting the plea and demanding a trial.
In court Friday, Donley said he did that because "there were a lot of things that were unclear to me," though he didn't elaborate. He apologized to Judge Lisotto and assistant prosecutor Robert Andrews for wasting their time the past 11 months.
He did not apologize to the baby's family, however.
And though he did not admit killing the baby, Donley said, "I am guilty of being a man who stood around and did nothing." Again, he did not elaborate. Donley said he will not appeal.
Andrews said he agreed to the plea bargain again because he believed it was the best option. Police and prosecutors believe Donley killed the baby, but would have had difficulty proving it in court because there were no witnesses.
Donley had denied hitting the baby, but he failed a polygraph test last year during which police asked him about striking the infant. That was why he pleaded guilty the first time.
Donley also faces charges of child endangering in Dayton, where he allegedly burned a child with a hair dryer. Defense attorney Mark Lavelle said Donley is prepared to face those charges as well.