PROVO — A Spanish Fork man admitted Monday that he is responsible for the death of his girlfriend's 4-month-old baby.
Chad Willingham, 24, pleaded guilty Monday in 4th District Court to child abuse homicide, a first-degree felony. In exchange for his guilty plea, a charge of obstructing justice, a second-degree felony, was dismissed.
The surprise plea agreement comes in lieu of a 15-day trial that was scheduled to begin in August. Adult Probation and Parole will now prepare a presentence investigation report. Willingham is scheduled to be sentenced April 25.
The plea comes one day shy of a year after emergency crews were called to a report of a 4-month-old girl not breathing.
On March 19, 2018, Nevaeh King was taken by medical helicopter to Primary Children's Hospital. She died of "serious head and neck injuries, as well as abdominal hemorrhaging," police said, after being on life support for 36 hours.
Doctors found swelling on the baby's brain, a fractured rib, "and multiple hemorrhages in the abdominal region and rib cage," the affidavit states. Medical crews also noted "evidence of severe dehydration and malnutrition would imply child abuse."
Willingham is the boyfriend of Nevaeh's mother. He told police he was watching the child for about four hours leading up to the incident.2 comments on this story
Shortly after Willingham's arrest, a woman claiming to be the baby's mother called the Deseret News to defend him.
"He loved that baby girl. He would never hurt her — ever," she said. "The love of my life is in jail for something he didn't do."
Willingham was convicted of misdemeanor assault on a pregnant woman in September 2016, and misdemeanor drug possession and failing to stop at an officer's commands in April 2016, according to court records. Willingham pleaded no contest to unlawful sexual activity with a minor in 2014.