A Fresno man who was accused of murdering his girlfriend’s son in 2010 but was put on probation was sentenced Friday to prison for violating his probation.
Demetris Reese, 29, violated probation in October 2016 by getting upset at a child abuser anger management class, causing the instructor and attendees to leave in fear, prosecutor Christopher Gularte said in Fresno County Superior Court.
Reese’s lawyer, Sal Sciandra, however, said Reese got upset when the instructor told him he could not get credit for the program, which was part of his probation, because he had his cell phone out during class.
Reese was in a fragile state, Sciandra said, because he was thinking about his brother who was killed in gang violence.
“I’m human. I made a mistake,” Reese told Judge James Oppliger. Reese also he didn’t hurt anyone during his outburst and hadn’t hurt anyone since being placed on probation in October 2012.
I’m human. I made a mistake.
Demetris Reese to Judge James Oppliger
But Oppliger said Reese’s actions – and the fact that he had killed a little boy – were enough to violate his probation. Oppliger then sentenced Reese to six years in prison.
Because Reese spent about 1,320 days in jail awaiting his trial on the murder charge and awaiting sentencing on his probation violation, he will do less than two years in prison, Sciandra said.
Reese was charged with murder in the death of 4-year-old Michael Crawford on May 17, 2010 and faced 25 years to life in prison if convicted.
Police say the boy was beaten after he wet his bed. The boy’s mother told detectives she saw Reese hitting her son with a leather belt. She also said Reese was alone in a room with Michael and the door was locked.
Reese was charged with murder in the death of 4-year-old Michael Crawford on May 17, 2010, but ended up pleading no contest to voluntary manslaughter.
But Reese’s lawyer at the time, Roger Litman, said the boy’s mother, who is mildly intellectually disabled, gave conflicting statements to police. At one point, she said that Reese didn’t harm her or her child, Litman said.
Coroner’s officials said the boy’s death was caused by child abuse, but they couldn’t determine whether the abuse – which occurred over several days – was by a man or woman.
In October 2012, Reese pleaded no contest to the lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. Judge Alan Simpson later sentenced Reese to six years in state prison but suspended it as long as he didn’t violate probation.