OTTAWA — The case of a 32-year-old Continental man charged with murder in the 2006 death of his young son could be headed to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Despite a 2-1 opinion handed down last week by Ohio’s 3rd District Court of Appeals stating that Travis Soto cannot be tried for murder in the toddler’s death due to his constitutional protection against double jeopardy, Putnam County Prosecuting Attorney Gary Lammers said in court Thursday that he will file a motion asking the state’s highest court to overturn the appellate court’s decision.
Soto served a five-year prison sentence for child endangering in the death of Julio Baldazo, his 2-year-old son, after accepting a deal from Putnam County prosecutors in 2006 that called for the state to dismiss a related charge of involuntary manslaughter.
At the time, Soto said his son’s death in an all-terrain-vehicle mishap was accidental, but several years following his release from prison the Continental man confessed to killing his young son and staging the death to look like an accident.
He subsequently was charged with aggravated murder, murder, felonious assault, kidnapping and tampering with evidence.
But Soto’s attorney, Joe Benavidez, argued in court that trying his client on the murder charges after the state had previously dismissed a similar charge of involuntary manslaughter would violate Soto’s double-jeopardy rights.
In its split verdict, the 3rd District Court of Appeals agreed. In his written opinion, Justice Stephen Shaw said the double jeopardy standard existed “because the defendant has been convicted and served his sentence for the offense pled to in exchange for dismissing” a charge of involuntary manslaughter. Justice John Willamowski concurred with Shaw’s opinion, while Justice William Zimmerman dissented.
During a status conference Thursday morning in Putnam County Common Pleas Court, Prosecuting Attorney Gary Lammers said he will, within the next 30 or so days, file a motion asking the high court to overturn the appellate court’s ruling.
Lammers also noted he had earlier Thursday filed a motion to suspend proceedings in the local common pleas court as they pertain to the remaining three charges filed against Soto.
Benavidez addressed Judge Keith Schierloh and said Soto came to court on Thursday expecting to have his bond reduced and was under the belief he should be released from custody while the appeal process runs its course.
“I told him that’s not the way things work,” said Benavidez. “And that’s when he said he wanted a new attorney.”
Schierloh said the matter of bond as well as a request for a new attorney should be directed to the appellate court, which currently has jurisdiction in the case.