GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Charles Connetti, III, 27, will spend the next 25 years behind bars for the death of his former girlfriend's 15-month-old son, Maddox Vieregge.
Connetti was originally charged with capital murder and faced the death penalty. He also denied beating or abusing little Maddox, saying the child was injured because he fell out of bed.
But Connetti eventually changed his story, and when the victim's family got prosecutors to lower the charge to second-degree murder, Connetti changed his plea to "guilty."
During his plea hearing in March, Connetti told the judge that he was high on methamphetamine at the time of the incident, saying, "I tossed [the child] on the trunk of the car, and he fell and hit his head. He was not responding, so I shook him and then took him to his mother."
At Tuesday's sentencing, Maddox's mother addressed the court and said, "[E]very time I want to see my baby, I have to go to his grave, and it feels like I am dying inside."
Connetti told the court, "I want to apologize to the mother and her family. I understand they are upset. That day, I did the stupidest thing in my life. If I had not done this, he wouldn't have passed away. I think about him all of the time, and I take responsibility for what I have done that caused her to lose her son. I am really sorry – I really am. I accept responsibility for what I have done, and I accept my punishment."
That punishment was 40 years in prison with 15 of those years suspended. That means Connetti will serve 25 years day-for-day.
Prior to imposing the day-for-day sentence, Judge Larry Bourgeois stated he considered the family's wishes, "[A] fifteen-month-old child lost his life. He had not even started living yet. I can't bring him back, I wish I could, but no one can do it. Children are the lifeblood of any community – our most precious asset. A child looks to his mother and father figures for every need – love, food and shelter. You stand here convicted of murder of a child. You are about to lose your freedom."
The case was prosecuted by ADA Chris Daniel.