A 48-year-old Westminster man was convicted and sentenced to a five-year prison term yesterday in Carroll County Circuit Court on a charge of child abuse in the death of his fiancee's 14-month-old daughter on Thanksgiving Day 2003.
Anthony P. Flakes has been in jail since his arrest and will receive credit for time served. He was incarcerated first in Carroll County and later in Howard County because of reported death threats he had received.
As part of a plea agreement, a statement of facts was read by Deputy State's Attorney David P. Daggett. He said that when his fiancee left for work about 10 p.m. Nov. 26, 2003, and left her four children in Flakes' care, the toddler, Mikayla Rae Barrett, was "dancing to some music in the living room" of their apartment in the 100 block of Bond St.
Less than an hour and a half later, a next-door neighbor called 911 to report the toddler was not breathing, Daggett said. Paramedics and staff at Carroll Hospital Center could not revive the child and Mikayla was pronounced dead about 1 a.m. Nov. 27.
Dried blood was found under vomit on the girl's face, and an autopsy later revealed other injuries that prompted the state medical examiner's office to rule the case a homicide due to asphyxiation and blunt trauma.
Flakes gave varying accounts of what happened, Daggett said. In one account, the defendant said he had been drinking and already was angry at two of the other children, who were ages 10, 7 and 2, when Mikayla began to cry and throw up.
Daggett asked Circuit Judge Michael M. Galloway to sentence Flakes to seven years of a 15-year sentence for child abuse resulting in death, which carries a 30-year maximum penalty. Defense attorney Brian L. DeLeonardo asked the judge to impose only the 15 months Flakes has been in custody.
Plea deal threatened
It appeared for a time as if the plea agreement might fall apart.
DeLeonardo called as a defense witness the Delaware chief medical examiner, Dr. Richard Callery, who said his review found the child's injuries consistent with cardiopulmonary resuscitation and "not in any way shape or form asphyxia," while the blunt trauma was not sufficient to cause death.
While refraining from criticizing the Maryland doctors, Callery testified that he found liver abnormalities and signs consistent with Reye's syndrome, linked to aspirin use in young children.
DeLeonardo and Flakes also attempted to raise questions about the county's Child Abuse and Sexual Assault unit, which was re-organized last year after a critical audit.
Flakes passionately denounced in court the CASA investigators and Daggett, insisting upon his innocence.
"If I wanted to go to trial right now, can I go to trial?" he asked the judge, adding quickly, "It's just a question."
At one point, the judge called the attorneys into his chambers, and he told Flakes that they had discussed whether the plea should be withdrawn.
"No, no, it was just a question," Flakes told the judge. But he said later that he wanted "to go to trial so bad" but feared the potential sentence would be long.
DeLeonardo said Flakes had to weigh his eligibility for parole in six months - because this conviction is not considered a crime of violence - against the risk of decades in prison if he were to go to trial on the original charges of second-degree murder and manslaughter.
A criminal record
Flakes has a criminal record, DeLeonardo noted. The convictions tend toward property crimes such as theft rather than violence, according to Daggett. Some of the convictions were 15 or more years ago, the judge said.
The child's mother, Robin L. Barrett, was in court with her parents and Flakes' parents in support of him, and she wrote a letter to the judge saying she wanted the charges dropped. She declined to comment after the plea and sentencing.
"Mikayla is dead and there's nothing I can do," Flakes told the judge. "I got three more kids to worry about. I got a fiancee and we are going to go places together."
Galloway set as a condition of Flakes' eventual parole and probation that he have no contact with children younger than 16.
Flakes initially was jailed on child abuse charges related to two of Mikayla's siblings. Daggett dropped those charges yesterday as part of the plea bargain.