MEDICINE HAT — A southern Alberta man has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in the death of a two-year-old boy.
T-Jaye (TEE’-jay) Heller, who is 33, made the plea Monday at the opening of his trial in Medicine Hat.
The child died of multiple blunt-force trauma injuries to his head.
His mother broke down in tears as the facts were read into the court record.
The mother, Heller and the boy moved to Medicine Hat in June 2011 and three weeks later he was dead.
The last assault that caused the boy’s death happened at another residence.
The court heard the toddler started having injuries starting when the mother got a job and Heller, who was unemployed, became the child’s primary daytime caregiver.
The mother took the boy to the doctor on June 16, 2011 after Heller reported the toddler had fallen.
The autopsy revealed the boy had a spiral fracture to his arm in addition to a number of other substantial injuries.
Less than two weeks later, police and ambulance were called to a home after Heller called 911 indicating the boy was unconscious and bleeding from his ear.
Heller became confrontational with police at the scene; a paramedic and officer stating they heard Heller ask, “is he dead or what?”
“Three families lost a son that day,” said the boy’s father, who can’t be identified because there is a publication ban on his son’s name.
“What happened to my son is horrible…It’s hard for me and my family to go through all this stuff.”
Heller was originally charged with first-degree murder, sexual assault, interference with a dead body and other charges, but those charges were dropped.
Second-degree carries an automatic life sentence, but the judge must determine how long Heller must serve before he can apply for parole.
“Given the circumstances of this case and the circumstances of this offender, my position is that 20 to 25 years before he can apply to parole is appropriate,” said Crown prosecutor Brandy Shaw.
Defence lawyer Lyndon Heidinger has indicated he’ll argue for 15 to 17 years.
Sentencing arguments are set to be heard by Justice Rodney Jerke starting on May 30.