OTTAWA — The U.S. Supreme Court, in a one-line declaration without additional comment, declined to hear the case of a former Putnam County man charged with aggravated murder and several other counts in the 2006 death of his young son.
The case of Travis Soto, which has been disputed at the appellate and state Supreme Court levels over the past year, has now been returned to Putnam County Common Pleas Court.
Putnam County Prosecuting Attorney Gary Lammers said Friday there is no discernible interpretation of the high court’s decision as it pertains to the double-jeopardy issue.
“We can only speculate,” the prosecutor said, “but it does give the trial court a little guidance if other similar motions arise.”
Soto was originally scheduled to appear Monday in an Ottawa courtroom, but that pre-trial hearing has been pushed back until 11 a.m. Aug. 3, Lammers said.
The 34-year-old Soto, whose address is listed in court records as Napoleon, told the police in 2006 he had accidentally killed his young son, Julio, in an all-terrain vehicle accident. Soto eventually pleaded guilty to child endangering and served a five-year prison sentence.
In 2016, several years after the completion of his sentence, Soto walked into the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office and confessed he had actually beaten his son to death and had staged the ATV accident.
He was indicted for aggravated murder and other offenses, but his attorneys filed a motion to dismiss all counts on double-jeopardy grounds, which prevents someone from being tried for the same crime twice. The trial court denied Soto’s motion, finding that double-jeopardy protection did not bar Soto’s prosecution for murder and aggravated murder because involuntary manslaughter with a child-endangering predicate is not the same offense as murder with a felonious-assault predicate.
Soto appealed to the Third District Court of Appeals, which agreed with the defendant that a subsequent prosecution was barred in the existing circumstances on double-jeopardy grounds. But in a 6-1 opinion, the Supreme Court of Ohio reversed the appeals court, holding that because the involuntary-manslaughter charge was dismissed as part of a plea bargain before a jury was empaneled, jeopardy never attached to that charge.
Soto’s attorneys were pinning their hopes on a reversal by the U.S. Supreme Court, but the high court’s decision not to hear the case has sent the matter back to the Putnam County courtroom of Judge Keith Schierloh.