A Toano man entered an Alford plea to murder in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court Monday in the death of his 3-month-old daughter.
In exchange for the plea, Bryan Timothy Arruda, 28, the prosecution agreed to drop a charge of felony child abuse against him, and also agreed on a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison. An Alford plea means that while Arruda did not admit guilt, he agreed that the prosecution had enough evidence for a likely conviction on the murder charge.
Arruda, who was indicted Sept. 20, 2017, by a grand jury on the two charges, had previously pleaded not guilty during a circuit court hearing Oct. 6, 2017, and had requested a bench trial.
Arruda could have faced up to 50 years in prison on the two charges — up to 40 years on the murder charge and another 10 on the child abuse charge.
Williamsburg-James City County Commonwealth’s Attorney Nate Green said his evidence would have shown that the child, Emery Arruda, died of multiple blunt force trauma consistent with blows to the head and not because of an accidental fall.
Arruda told police that he briefly left his daughter alone in a room and she was injured in a fall from an unsecured bouncy chair that was on top of a coffee table, according to the criminal complaint.
Green said VCU child abuse physician Dr. Robin Foster, board certified in child abuse pediatrics, pediatric emergency medicine and pediatrics, found evidence of multiple blunt force trauma with retinal hemorrhaging caused by shaking.
Green said Foster’s testimony would have indicated that the baby’s injuries were not consistent with a fall from a bouncy chair 4 feet off the ground, and rather, a severe force caused the injury.
James City County Police found the child suffering from life-threatening injuries when they responded to a home in the 7600 block of Crestview Drive at about 3:30 p.m. April 28, 2017, police spokeswoman Stephanie Williams said in a news release at the time.
Arruda had called 911 and told them that a 3-month-old child had stopped breathing, Green said, and that when paramedics arrived, the child was in cardiac arrest.
Arruda, the child’s father, was home alone with the child in the hours before and at the time of the incident, Green said. The criminal complaint stated that Arruda told police he drank six beers before the incident.
Green said Arruda had signs of consuming alcohol and an illegal narcotic in his system, which Green said was cocaine.
Foster would have testified that the injuries Emery Arruda sustained were “abusive in nature and had no accidental or natural causes.”
Arruda’s pre-sentence report will be presented at a 10 a.m. June 18 hearing in Williamsburg-James City County Circuit Court.