HANCOCK COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The 26-year-old man accused of capital murder in the beating death of a toddler says he didn't do it. Charles Connetti III was in Hancock County court Monday to enter his plea.
Connetti entered the courtroom before Judge Larry Bourgeois and listened quietly while prosecutors read the capital murder indictment outlining the charges. He is accused of killing Maddox Vieregge in March of 2016 by beating and abusing him while the child was under his care. The toddler, the child of his then girlfriend, died of head trauma.
Connetti was soft spoken when he said the words "not guilty." Family members, including his distraught mother, Carmen, were in court. She believes in her son.
"He has seven nieces and nephews. The newest one was like three months before this happened, and he was at the hospital holding that baby. He loved children. He wouldn't do anything to anyone," Carmen said.
Connetti's defense attorney, James Thompson, also believes.
"After interviewing him, I'm thoroughly convinced he didn't do it. I picked up the discovery from the district attorney about four o'clock Friday and read a good bit of it. I still have no clue as to what they said he did, except he was there and the baby couldn't breathe. So, well, therefore, he must have done it," Thompson said.
Prosecutors declined to comment on the specifics of the case at this time, but Thompson said none of this makes any sense.
"That was his little buddy. He loved him. He was his friend. He called him dad. This is not some guy that got up that morning, fed him cereal, and then played in the yard and then just decides he wants to kill somebody," Thompson explained.
The Connetti family is coping as best they can, according to Carmen.
"It's really hard, really hard on me. That's all I have to say. Thanks," said Carmen.
The judge set a trial date for Oct. 9. If convicted, Connetti could face the death penalty or life in prison with parole. He remains in jail under a $1 million bond.