A Banning man who beat his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son to the point of causing fatal organ and brain damage was convicted today of second-degree murder.
Andrew Lee Payne, 24, faces 25 years to life in prison for the Nov. 11, 2011, death of Robert Voorhees. Riverside County Superior Court Judge Bernard Schwartz set sentencing for Nov. 2.
Along with murder, a Riverside jury found Payne guilty of assault on a child resulting in great bodily injury, falsifying a prescription and possession of illegal drugs. Jurors deliberated less than a day before announcing the verdicts.
A separate jury is still weighing the fate of Payne’s co-defendant, the child’s mother — 23-year-old Davia Damanique James — who could face 15 years to life behind bars if convicted of second-degree murder and child endangerment.
The defendants had separate juries because different witnesses were called to testify against them. Closing arguments in James’s case wrapped up today.
Deputy District Attorney Kevin Beecham described Robert Voorhees’ death as “horrific,” telling jurors that the child was hit repeatedly in the
kidneys and suffered a “ fractured spine, a collapsed lung, cerebral edema and a herniated brain.”
The official cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head.
According to Beecham, the youngster was left under Payne’s supervision on Nov. 7, 2011, while James went to a doctor’s appointment and ran errands for most of the day. By the time she came home that afternoon, her son was in his makeshift bed on the floor and appeared to be sleeping, the prosecutor said.
In fact, the boy was virtually comatose, unresponsive to anyone’s presence and slipping away. On the morning of Nov. 9, James noticed Robert’s breathing was labored and called 911, according to Beecham.
When paramedics arrived at the single-story house at 1435 W. Hays St., they initially believed the child was dead, his head hanging low, eyes half-open and a “thousand-yard stare on his face,” Beecham said. However, they heard him gasp for breath and immediately began life-saving measures.
He was declared brain dead on Nov. 11 at Loma Linda University Medical Center and removed from life support.
Beecham alleged that Payne, a drug user, severely beat the boy, and James covered for him.
Deputy Public Defender Greg Roach argued that Payne “lost his cool” and injured the child without intending to do him any harm.
James’s attorney, Stuart Sachs, described his client as a “devoted mother” who was led to believe her son had hurt himself during a fall in the bathroom until doctors informed her otherwise.