MANATEE -- A Bradenton man has been charged with first-degree murder in the September 2010 death of an infant who was in his care.
John Morico, 20, was originally charged with felony child neglect for the death of 11-month-old Payton Nash. A month later, the charges were upgraded to aggravated manslaughter of a child.
Last week, officials charged Morico with first-degree murder. He remains in the Manatee County jail, where he is being held without bond.
After the death, Morico told investigators he tripped while holding the child, and that he struck the child’s head with his elbow while falling onto the floor, according to reports.
Morico then placed the child in bed and did not notify anyone, according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.
Assistant State Attorney Lon Arend said the state will not seek the death penalty.
Arend said the first-degree murder charges are warranted any time child abuse results in death.
Since the incident, detectives determined there were inconsistencies in statements made by Morico and by Payton’s mother, his live-in girlfriend.
Arend said no charges have been filed against the child’s mother. He declined to comment further, citing the rules established by the court.
According to an autopsy, Payton died of a fractured skull and bleeding on the brain.
An indictment returned by a Manatee County Grand jury last week states that Morico did “feloniously and from a premeditated design, effect the death of Payton Nash.”
According to documents filed with the court, prosecutors will show there were two prior incidents when Payton was injured by Morico.
In what the prosecution calls “The Stroller Incident,” which occurred three days prior to her death, Payton received a head injury while under Morico’s care.
Morico, according to court documents, told hospital staff and family members that a stroller had fallen on the child’s head.
“When interviewed about the fatal head injury at issue in this case, (Morico) initially tried to blame hospital staff for not treating the victim properly for this head injury that occurred three days earlier,” the documents state.
In what prosecutors labeled “The Bathroom Incident,” Payton received another head injury two days before she was killed.
According to court documents, Morico and the child’s mother were having sex in the bathroom; Morico was intoxicated. Payton awoke from a nap and approached the bathroom door.
“When the defendant heard the victim, he punched the door, causing the door to hit the victim, knocking her down, and breaking the louvers in the door,” the documents state.
According to the court documents, these two prior acts will show Morico’s intent.
“The state intends to use this act again to show a lack or accident or mistake on the part of the defendant in causing the fatal head injury to the victim, and the defendant’s intent.”