A Jasper County judge assessed a Joplin man five years in prison Friday when he entered a plea to abuse of his girlfriend's 4-year-old son.
Adam J. Duncan, 28, entered an Alford plea in Jasper County Circuit Court to a single count of child abuse in a plea agreement with the prosecutor's office that dismissed a second count of the same offense and limited the prison time he might receive to no more than five years. He was facing up to seven years on each count.
An Alford plea admits no guilt but acknowledges that a conviction is likely if the case were to proceed to trial. Circuit Judge Gayle Crane accepted the plea deal and assessed Duncan the agreed-upon sentence.
The son of Duncan's girlfriend, Haley K. Simpson, 26, was taken to a Joplin hospital Dec. 6 with bruising to his head, thighs and the backs of his hands, according to a probable-cause affidavit. Assistant Prosecutor Taylor Haas said at the sentencing hearing Friday that the boy also had bruising on the tops of his feet.
The boy testified at a preliminary hearing April 2 that Duncan wrapped his hand in cloth and hit him several times in the head Dec. 5 when he was left in Duncan's care by his mother. The boy disclosed that he told his grandmother when she came to pick him up the next day that Duncan had been punching him in the head and hurting him with a pillow.
A second count pertaining to toilet training of the boy in May of last year was dismissed by the plea agreement. The accusation in that case was that Duncan had spanked the boy with his bare hand whenever he failed to make proper use of the toilet, leaving finger-shaped bruises on his buttocks and waistline.
The boy's mother also was charged with two felony counts of abuse in the initial investigation of the case by Joplin police and the Missouri Department of Social Services. She pleaded guilty to a reduced count of child endangerment March 27 and received a suspended imposition of sentence and probation.