HOT SPRINGS -- A man charged with capital murder in the 2015 death of his 3-month-old son was sentenced to life in prison Friday after pleading guilty to first-degree murder in Garland County Circuit Court.
James Antonio-Carlos Page, 38, of Hot Springs has remained in custody in lieu of $1 million bond since his arrest Nov. 6, 2015. He was set to stand trial next week on the capital-murder charge and prosecutors had indicated they planned to seek the death penalty, but Page opted to plead guilty to the lesser charge and will spend the rest of his life in prison.
"I spoke with the victim's mother and she wanted him to have a life sentence," deputy prosecutor Kara Petro said Friday. "She never wanted him to get out of prison. There is no difference between life for capital or life for murder first.
"A death-penalty case that has a death sentence granted has many years of numerous appeals and other post-conviction remedies. He won't be able to appeal his plea of life, therefore it won't continue for years keeping the victim's mother from closure."
Prosecuting Attorney Michelle Lawrence said Friday that Page had no significant prior criminal history, which could have been a factor at trial.
Page was initially charged with first-degree domestic battery at the time of his arrest, but the charge was upgraded to capital murder two days later after the victim, Zayden Page, died at Arkansas Children's Hospital in Little Rock.
A motion for Page to undergo a mental examination was filed Feb. 10, 2016, and the examination was completed May 26, 2016, at the State Hospital. The mental evaluation report was sealed as part of an order limiting pretrial publicity, but Page was found to be fit to proceed at a hearing June 20, 2016.
Clay Janske, Page's attorney, said that in the past two weeks, after talking with the doctors at Arkansas Children's Hospital and the medical examiner, "it became clear to us [Page] was in bad trouble. The best-case scenario was to get life in prison. There was no reason to roll the dice since there was a real strong chance of him getting the death penalty with the evidence against him."
According to the affidavit, Dr. Karen Farst, an emergency room physician at Arkansas Children's Hospital, notified Hot Springs police Nov. 6, 2015, about a 3-month-old boy brought into the emergency room with injuries that included a burn around his neck, a broken collarbone, rib fractures and multiple bruises to his head and face.
Farst said the victim had been in the custody of his father, identified as Page, all day and that Page attributed the injuries to a fall, the affidavit said. Farst stated in her opinion it was impossible that the injuries were sustained from a fall.
Hospital personnel said that at one point Page stated he was leaving the hospital and going back to his home state of Alabama, according to the affidavit.
In his statement to police, Page said he had taken his fiancee to work earlier that morning and arrived back at the residence around 10:30 a.m. He said the baby was crying and continued to cry, so Page picked him up from his car seat and "shook him violently."
After some time, when the baby continued crying, he said he threw the victim into his car seat and that the victim continued to cry after being thrown, according to the statement.
The affidavit noted that Page is approximately 6 feet 2 inches tall and was standing up holding the victim when he threw him into the car seat, which was located on the floor.
Page admitted to police that after about 30 minutes he noticed the child was not breathing and took him to the hospital. The child was initially taken to CHI St. Vincent Hot Springs and then airlifted to Arkansas Children's Hospital.
Petro said Page tried to minimize his guilt by claiming he shook him and threw him into a car seat.
"The injuries are not consistent with that story," Petro said. "He had to have done more to the baby to cause those injuries."
Janske said that it came out there was evidence of pre-existing injuries to the child and that the defense felt like the prosecution would have pointed the finger at Page during a trial.
"It was just too big a risk for him to take in the hopes of maybe getting a term of years which likely would have been lengthy," Janske said.
State Desk on 12/08/2018
Print Headline: Arkansas man pleads guilty to 3-month-old son's murder, receives life sentence