LOS ANGELES (CNS) -- A man who assaulted and murdered his live-in girlfriend's 2 1/2-year-old son at their Los Angeles apartment was sentenced Friday to 50 years to life in state prison.
Superior Court Judge Curtis B. Rappe noted that Ronald Nathaniel Salmond III had been "given chance after chance after chance'' in a string of criminal cases and said he "seems to have a problem controlling his anger.''
"I do think this was a vicious attack on a child,'' the judge said after rejecting a defense motion to strike a strike stemming from Salmond's conviction for attempted robbery in 2010 that resulted in his 25-year-to-life sentence being doubled to 50 years to life.
Salmond, now 32, was convicted last November of second-degree murder and assault on a child causing death involving the June 12, 2015, death of his girlfriend's son, Elijah. Jurors acquitted him of the more serious crime of first-degree murder.
The boy died less than eight hours after the defendant made a 911 call reporting that the boy was choking and not breathing.
The boy had been left in Salmond's care along with his 4-year-old sister by their mother while she was away from the home for an appointment that afternoon.
An autopsy determined the boy had suffered multiple traumatic injuries, according to records from the coroner's office.
Salmond was arrested by Los Angeles police in March 2017 and has remained behind bars since then, according to jail records. In his sentencing memo, Deputy District Attorney Jonathan Hatami noted that the defendant initially said he had "no clue'' why the boy died, then said, "I never meant to hurt that boy'' and eventually said, "I dropped him, I dropped him.''
Salmond claimed they were playing "Spaceship,'' that he tossed him up in the air and the boy landed on the ground after his half-sister grabbed Salmond's arm, according to the document.
"What you did was very wrong,'' the boy's 11-year-old half-sister, Emiyah, told the defendant during the sentencing hearing in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom. "In my opinion, you should die. And you blamed me -- an innocent, loving, caring, 4-year-old ... for his death.''
She told Salmond the case was "about you putting your filthy hands on my brother, Elijah,'' and said she can't live with her mother "because of you and what you did.''
The boy's grandmother, Tomi McKain, who has since adopted Emiyah, said she waited "seven years for this day.''
"I don't know how a grown man can kill a 2-year-old baby and blame a 4-year-old for the death,'' she said. "We all know you killed Elijah ... All of us who loved Elijah we just want to know why.''
Salmond's mother, Christine Gray, said her son "made numerous mistakes, but he would not make this mistake.''
"He did not do this crime, he did not do this crime. He loved Elijah to his last breath,'' she insisted, adding that he would appeal his conviction.
As her son was being led out of court, the woman told him, "No matter how much darkness you are in, I'm your light ... We love you.''
The prosecutor told jurors in his closing argument last year that Salmond "beat Elijah to death,'' while defense attorney Angela Cheung countered that the prosecution had failed to prove its case.
"There is only one reason why Elijah isn't here ... and that reason is sitting right over there ...'' the prosecutor said, pointing across the courtroom to Salmond.
"This is not from a fall. This is not an accident. This child was beaten from head to toe,'' Hatami said.
Two doctors, including one who treated the boy and another who is a child abuse expert, concluded that the toddler's injuries were the result of child abuse, according to the deputy district attorney.
Salmond's attorney told jurors that authorities rushed to judge what had happened to the boy as a case of child abuse.
The defense lawyer -- who said the prosecution's case had been built on a "series of assumptions'' -- said she didn't know "if we will ever know for sure'' exactly what happened to the boy.
The prosecution had not met its burden to prove that Salmond was responsible for the child's death, according to Cheung.
"Holding someone accountable for something he didn't do is not justice,'' the defense lawyer said. "If you find my client guilty in the face of all the problems in this case, that is not truth. That is not justice for Elijah.''
In his rebuttal argument, the prosecutor countered that Salmond "got mad that he was left with the children'' and "took it out on Elijah'' by hitting the boy "multiple times over and over again.''
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