Bowing his head and weeping, an ex-Fort Carson soldier pleaded guilty Wednesday to child abuse resulting in the death of his 10-month-old stepson.
Zachary Ryan Doggett will serve 32 years in prison under a plea agreement heard in court Wednesday afternoon.
Doggett, 21, had been scheduled for a Jan. 22 trial on charges of first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory penalty of life in prison without parole. Clad in an orange jail jumpsuit with his hands cuffed behind his back, Doggett answered "Yes, sir," when El Paso County District Judge David Gilbert asked if he understood that he would be giving up all rights to a trial.
Asked whose idea it was to plead guilty, Doggett's voice cracked as he gave his response: "Mine and mine alone."
Doggett was scheduled to return to court on Oct. 22, at which time a sentencing hearing will be scheduled, the judge ordered.
The former soldier was a specialist in the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division at the time of his August 2012 arrest, but according to a Fort Carson spokeswoman he has since left the Army. She had no further details about the nature of his separation.
Colorado Springs police began investigating about 7 p.m. Aug. 25 after officers were dispatched to a home on Brant Hollow Court in southeast Colorado Springs on a report of a baby who was unconscious but breathing. The child had numerous bruises on his torso and around the face - along with a fractured skull - and he was pronounced dead shortly before midnight.
Police say initial accounts of how the injuries occurred were inconsistent with the preliminary investigation - leading to Doggett's arrest.
In his comments to the court, Doggett said he "permitted" the child to be placed in a position to be injured, and that he "didn't call for help like I should have, and (the boy) died as a result." He did not acknowledge harming the boy.
The child's mother attended the hearing and cried quietly as Doggett pleaded guilty. She declined to comment outside the courthouse.
Attorneys on both sides of the case declined to discuss details of the case, citing Doggett's pending sentencing.