A jury on Monday acquitted a former Fort Carson soldier of murder but found him guilty of child abuse resulting in death after a friend’s 2-month-old son was fatally injured under his care last February in Colorado Springs.
Regardless of the mixed verdict, George Peters still faces the potential of spending the rest of his life in prison — up to 80 years — when he is sentenced on Dec. 5, according to prosecutors.
A first-degree murder conviction would have resulted in an automatic life sentence.
Peters, 24, showed little reaction as 4th Judicial District Judge Thomas L. Kennedy announced guilty verdicts on four of the five counts against him, concluding a roughly two-week trial that led a jury to deliberate for more than 11 hours over three days.
Prosecutors said Peters was craving heroin and frustrated after a sleepless night when he resorted to force to quiet Nicholas Johnson’s crying while babysitting for a friend.
The boy died a day later, on Feb. 11, and an autopsy determined he suffered brain injuries like those caused by shaking young children.
The five-woman, seven-man jury also found Peters guilty of three counts of child abuse against his own son, Gabriel, who suffered anal trauma and injuries similar to those of Nicholas.
The boy remains in the care of his mother, an active-duty Fort Carson soldier, prosecutors said.
Between the two felony convictions, Peters faces 26 to 80 years in prison, according to prosecutors Margaret Vellar and Gail Warkentin.
Peters' public defenders had argued that Peters did nothing more than bounce the child to quiet his crying. They said Nicholas’ death resulted from undetected bleeding in his brain that made him susceptible to head injury.
Prosecutors, however, maintained the child was healthy, and relied on testimony by a series of doctors who tied Nicholas' death to abuse.
The child’s mother left the courtroom flanked by supporters. She and members of Peters’ family declined to comment after the verdict.
Peters was discharged from the Army shortly before the child's death, apparently after failing a drug test.
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