Six years after shaking his baby to death, a Payson man pleaded guilty recently to manslaughter faced with new accusations he had abused another child.
Justin Phillip Valencia, 24, will face prison time when Superior Court Judge Peter Cahill sentences him Aug. 27 in Payson.
Valencia not only confessed to striking his 22-month-old daughter in July, but violently shaking his 5-week-old son in 2006, which ultimately killed him.
In a written statement, Valencia asked the court to take mercy on him.
“Don’t use me as an example,” he said.
Valencia said he never intended to kill his son; he was just irritated when the baby would not stop crying.
Information from a pre-sentencing report described the events leading up the child’s death.
In early December 2006, Valencia’s 5-week-old son, Leon, had inhaled his formula and was brought to the hospital. After doctors checked the baby out, he was sent home with the baby’s mother.
That night, the baby woke up every 20 minutes crying and vomiting.
People in the home told officers they heard Valencia screaming at the child and telling the baby’s mother, “He just won’t shut up.”
Later, when Valencia went in to check on the screaming boy, he said he took hold of it and it had a seizure.
The baby was airlifted to the Valley, but had severe brain trauma. Several weeks later, still in a vegetative state, the boy’s family decided to take him off life support.
Doctors said the injuries to the baby’s brain and eyes were non-accidental and appeared to be due to “shaken-baby” syndrome.
Valencia told officers while he had shaken the baby, he was sure it was not in a manner that would injure it.
Valencia and the boy’s mother were eventually arrested in March 2008 for the child’s death, but the charges were dismissed in July 2009.
Gila County Attorney Daisy Flores said they had to dismiss the charges “due to difficulties with the case.”
She would not discuss details of that case until after sentencing.
Things quieted down a bit for Valencia after the charges were dropped.
Then in March 2010, officers got a call of a fight in Green Valley Park.
Officers learned Valencia had hit a 16-year-old and 17-year-old in the face. When the 16-year-old fell to the ground, Valencia stomped on him with his foot and demanded his wallet.
Valencia fled the scene and officers could not track him down.
A week later, Valencia turned himself in and ultimately admitted he had punched the teens.
Still, Valencia served no jail time.
Another year passed and Valencia had by this time had a daughter with a different woman.
When the mother dropped off the 22-month-old at daycare, she noticed bruising on her face and asked the daycare provider if she had been injured.
“There were no known incidents that occurred at the daycare, however, as the day went on, the daycare provider noticed significant bruising emerging on both sides of the child’s face,” a police report states. “Moreover, there was a bruise in the shape of a handprint of fingers on the right side of her face.”
The daycare workers said when they had given the child to Valencia the night before it did not have any bruises, therefore, the baby had been hit while at home.
Valencia said he had taken care of the child for some time that night since the mother was working late.
When officers and the mother questioned Valencia, he initially denied causing any harm.
“Eventually, Mr. Valencia revealed he was having problems potty training the child and since she would not listen to him, he repeatedly slapped her in the face.”
While getting booked, Valencia told officers, “I beat a child. I feel like an (expletive).”
After his arrest, detectives with the Payson Police Department asked Valencia about his son’s death years earlier.
Valencia finally admitted he had shaken the boy “five or six times” to quiet it down.
Officers arrested Valencia and he has been in jail since July 22, 2011.
Valencia pleaded guilty to manslaughter for the death of his son, child abuse for hitting his daughter and attempted robbery for taking the 16-year-old’s wallet.
He agreed to serve jail time for each case, the sentences running consecutively, or one after the other.
Cahill will sentence Valencia Aug. 27 at 2 p.m. in Payson.
In a written statement, Valencia says he understands that he should serve jail time, “but I don’t want to rot in there either.”
Doctors diagnosed Valencia with manic bipolar and high anxiety earlier in his life. He had not been taking medication regularly for either condition for some time.
A probation officer wrote in the pre-sentencing report that Valencia was a high-risk offender with aggressive, violent tendencies.
“The cruel and vicious manner in which these offenses were committed demonstrates the defendant not only has violent tendencies, but the awareness to choose vulnerable victims and to try to muddle his involvement in these offenses.”