Larry Perry, a St. Cloud man who killed his nearly 3-month-old son Ayden in 2013, should be sentenced to death, an Osceola County jury unanimously decided Tuesday evening.
The jurors, six men and six women, deliberated for about three hours. The same jury convicted Perry of first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse last week.
“It wasn’t totally unexpected, I’ll say that,” said J. Edwin Mills, one of Perry’s defense attorneys. Perry did not say anything to him after the verdict was read, he said.
Ocala-based prosecutor Brad King, to whom Gov. Rick Scott assigned the case and 25 others since Orange-Osceola State Attorney Aramis Ayala announced she will not seek the death penalty for anyone, said he respected the jury’s decision.
“This was just a very, very sad case. It’s one of the saddest cases I’ve been a part of,” King said.
Ayden’s mother, Kathy Barnes, was arrested two weeks before the child’s death on an old hydrocodone trafficking warrant and was in jail at the time of her son’s death, leaving Ayden with Perry.
Perry had gotten regular visits from Barnes’ mother while she was in jail, though not as many as he had before Barnes was arrested, he said. He was in his apartment with Ayden alone the night of Feb. 13, 2013, and the baby would not stop crying, he later told police.
Perry said he tried checking to see if the baby needed a diaper changed, then tried to feed him formula with one bottle, then another. He tried taking the baby to a different room and turning on the vacuum cleaner because Ayden usually liked the noise.
But Ayden didn’t stop crying, and Perry snapped, he said.
Perry threw Ayden into the bedroom wall two or three times, hitting the back of his head, he later said when he recreated what happened for police. He put Ayden on the bed and twisted his neck, picked him back up, brought him to the living room and dropped him onto the floor. Then he stomped on his face and chest, leaving what the medical examiner said were bruises in the shape of the pattern on the sole of Perry’s house slipper on Ayden’s cheek.
Perry then called 911 and said he hurt his baby and needed and ambulance. Ayden’s skull was severely fractured, and he had broken ribs. He died about two hours later.
Barnes held her hand over her chest and cried quietly as the courtroom clerk read the verdict. She let out an audible sob when the clerk read the jury’s final decision. Perry turned around to look at her and crossed his arms over his chest to motion “I love you.”
Barnes walked out of the courtroom crying.
She and her sister, Michelle Barnes, hugged prosecutors and a victim advocate before they left the courthouse holding hands. They did not speak to reporters.
Judge Jon Morgan set the formal sentencing hearing for 1:30 p.m. on Oct. 13.
“That is another opportunity to convince Judge [Jon] Morgan that death is not an appropriate sentence in this case. We will be working on that between now and October,” Mills said.
On Tuesday morning, jurors heard from psychologists who evaluated Perry regarding whether he is intellectually disabled, which would make executing him unconstitutional.
Jurors heard on Monday from two psychologists who evaluated him at his defense attorneys’ request. Dr. Hyman Eisenstein and Dr. Jacquelyn Olander found that he has a low IQ, a history of adaptive and intellectual deficiencies and sometimes cannot complete basic tasks.
But another psychologist who evaluated Perry on behalf of the state took the stand Tuesday morning and disagreed with them, saying his testing showed Perry does not fit the criteria for intellectual disability.
“He demonstrates personal and social self-sufficiency,” said Dr. Greg Prichard. “In other words, he demonstrates the ability to live in society without support.”
Perry spent much of the trial with his head down, not looking at the people testifying, the video evidence or the autopsy photos of his son.
He took the stand in his own defense Monday and told jurors he did not have enough help with the child after Barnes was arrested. Barnes had five older children, all but one of whom had been taken away from her by the time Ayden was born. Perry said he let her tend to Ayden.
“I wasn’t as good as her,” he said. “Honestly, I depended on her to take care of him.”
Though he posted on Facebook that he needed help, he said he did not ask anyone to take Ayden from him.
“I lost it, man,” he said Monday. “I figured I lost everything; I didn’t think I’d see Kathy ever again; I didn’t think he [Ayden] would see his mother ever again. I thought it was the end.”
firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5774