04/10/05 — Teen pleads guilty to manslaughter in baby's death

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Teen pleads guilty to manslaughter in baby's death

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on April 10, 2005 2:03 AM

A teen-ager who hit his toddler son so hard that he died pleaded guilty in Wayne County Superior Court to voluntary manslaughter and was sentenced to five to seven years in prison.

Donald Elbert Purnell, 17, of Rifle Range Road was accused of hitting 14-month-old Malachi Edmundson on Aug. 13, 2004, in frustration because the child would not be quiet. The blow lacerated the child's liver.

The boy was taken by ambulance to Wayne Memorial Hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after. An autopsy showed that he had died of injuries to his abdomen.

Purnell was arrested by the Wayne County Sheriff's Office and then indicted by the grand jury for first-degree murder. But Assistant District Attorney Terry Light said Friday that "the state's evidence could not prove that he intended to kill the child."

Defense lawyer Geoff Hulse of Goldsboro agreed, saying the blow was not meant to harm the child.

The boy had been living with his father for about a week, detectives said. His mother, Jameese Edmundson, lived elsewhere.

Several court officials said the teen-agers were too young to be parents.

Mrs. Light said the boy's mother was upset during last week's sentencing hearing.

"It was tragic," the prosecutor said. "The baby deserved better. But under the law it was not a first-degree murder case, but it was a manslaughter case."

Law-enforcement officers who investigated the death said Purnell was very remorseful over the boy's death.

Judge Jerry Braswell of Goldsboro sentenced Purnell to 57 to 78 months in a minimum security facility for youthful offenders. He granted work release to Purnell if he obtains a high school diploma.