Live-in, caretaker boyfriend PETER KERRIGAN has pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the death of his girlfriend's 23-month-old son. Her two children were "often" left with the boyfriend while she was working. At the time, the boyfriend said the little boy had "fallen," but the injuries were inconsistent with a fall--the child was limp and barely breathing when the ambulance arrived. The little boy later died at the hospital.
Herrin man pleads guilty to child's manslaughter
By Tara Fasol-Chambers, The Southern
Tuesday, July 14, 2009 11:16 PM CDT
MARION - A Herrin man pleaded guilty Tuesday to involuntary manslaughter in connection with the 2006 death of a 23-month-old boy.
Peter Kerrigan, 29, originally was charged with murder and aggravated battery after Brynden Gibson was found to be barely breathing at a West Tyler Street residence in Herrin, where he lived with his mother, Rebecca Gibson, Kerrigan and another sibling.
The boy was taken to Herrin Hospital and later to St. Louis Children's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
The state's attorney's office dropped the murder and aggravated battery charges in exchange for Kerrigan's plea to involuntary manslaughter.
The crime normally calls for a sentence of three to 14 years, although probation is possible.
Given the child was a family member or household resident and less than 12 years old, a sentence of up to 28 years is possible. The state agreed as part of the plea arrangement to ask for no more than 20 years.
A hearing is set for 9:30 a.m. Aug. 28.
Assistant State's Attorney Lisa Irvin told the court Kerrigan and Rebecca Gibson lived together in Herrin as "man and wife" and her two children, including Brynden, were often left with Kerrigan while the mother went to work.
On Dec. 10, 2006, Irvin said the children were left in Kerrigan's care while Gibson went to work about 11:30 a.m.
Irvin said Gibson later received a phone call from Kerrigan. He told her Brynden had fallen in the kitchen, and he had given the child Tylenol and put him to bed. Later, Irvin said Gibson received a second phone call saying Brynden had not awaken and was breathing irregularly.
Irvin said family was called to the residence. Upon the mother's arrival, an ambulance was already there.
Irvin said if the case had gone to jury trial, which it was scheduled to do Tuesday morning, a babysitter would have been called to testify to accounts Kerrigan was in the home at the time she arrived, shortly after family was notified of Brynden's condition.
Irvin said the babysitter told prosecutors Brynden was on the couch without a blanket and was limp and barely breathing. The babysitter said Kerrigan repeated, "I messed up" and "I'm going to jail" several times.
Witnesses also told prosecutors Kerrigan left the residence while medics were tending to the child and returned once the ambulance left with Brynden inside.
Irvin said the case was complicated because of a number of varying opinions on the actual cause of death. She called the case one of "shaken baby" and noted a number of experts were prepared to testify to information that Kerrigan intentionally caused harm to the child through some type of abuse.
Irvin said expert reports found Brynden's injuries "were not consistent with a fall."