Father of 3-year-old Wilson boy beaten to death pleads guilty to child abuse

Published: Jul. 21, 2021 at 6:54 PM CDT
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ARDMORE, Okla. (KXII) - The father of the Wilson toddler beaten to death last July pleaded guilty to child abuse Wednesday just before noon. He was the second family member to be convicted in the case; his sister-in-law Shannon Smith pleaded guilty to 1st degree manslaughter in April.

Shannon Smith is currently serving time in Mabel Basset Correctional Center after she pleaded guilty to first degree manslaughter in April. The court said she was the one who delivered the fatal blows to the baby. The child’s father, James Daren Smith, was originally charged with first degree murder. Wednesday morning he pled guilty to a lesser charge of child abuse.

Baby James Smith’s mother, Kyla Burgess, said she feels like the justice system did right by her son. Smith was given a 30 year sentence with 12 years in prison and 18 years suspended.

During the hearing, Smith stated that he had spanked his son with a belt, but said “The rest I had no idea about,” referring to the abuse by his sister-in-law Shannon.

Burgess said that’s not true and she told the court that during her victim impact statement.

“Sitting there listening, it hurt until I got to say my piece,” Burgess said.

After her statement, Smith admitted he was aware of the abuse.

“I understand he is not taking responsibility for the actual abuse that he caused my son,” Burgess said. “But me being able to hear him say ‘Yes, I did know,’ that is admitting somewhat that he knows he is responsible.”

On Thursday the third and final family member charged in the boy’s death - his uncle Frank Smith - is scheduled for his plea hearing.

Oklahoma law requires anyone who suspects a child to be abused to report the crime. Texas law requires anyone who believes a child, senior, or adult with disabilities is being abused to report it to DPS. If you believe a child is being abused, contact the local police department or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at 1-800-843-5678. The Oklahoma Child Abuse Hotline is 1-800-522-3511. Texas child abuse can be reported at 1-800-252-5400. Always call 911 for emergencies.

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