Father who beat 5-year-old son to death faces death penalty

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. — The mother of an Orange County 5-year-old whose father was convicted of beating him to death told a jury Monday that she wishes she could go back in time and delete the day he died.

The jury will ultimately decide whether Darell Avant Sr. gets the death penalty.

Avant Sr. was convicted of murder and aggravated child abuse last week, which elevates the case into death penalty territory.

In opening statements for Avant Sr.’s sentencing, prosecutors gave a recap of the beating that killed Darrell Avant Jr.

They said the beating was Avant Sr.’s way of punishing the child for getting in trouble at school.

Prosecutors said Avant Jr. abused the trust he had as the boy's father.

The young boy's kindergarten teacher, Bonnie Copeland, testified Monday, saying there are now people at his school who fear sending children home when they get in trouble.

She said her heart still goes out to Darrell Jr.’s grieving mother.

“I wonder what you would have grown up to be. Would you have been a musician? You loved to whistle,” she said.






The child’s mother also took the witness stand and said wish she could go back and pick him up from school herself instead of leaving him with a killer.

"He meant the world, he meant the world to me. And no words, no words can explain how much he meant to me," said Jessica Phillips.

The defense had a neurologist on the stand, who said Avant Sr. has suffered a series of head injuries in his life and that his cognitive abilities are not as good as they should be.

“In a stressful situation, the difference between right and wrong gets blurred. You’re agitated, you’re impulsive, you emotional regulation is impaired,” said Dr. Mark Rubino. “Your ability to say, ‘Hey, I shouldn’t do that,’ doesn’t pop up.”

One of the big claims the defense made revolves around Avant Sr.’s waiting 30 minutes after the beating to call 911. During the trial, prosecutors used Avant Sr.’s Google searches as evidence. They said he searched, “how to tell if an infant is dead,” before calling 911.

The doctor said he truly may not have been able to recognize that his son was dead.

Testimony will continue Tuesday.