News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 21, 2012

Man pleads guilty in toddler's death in Tipton County

Faces up to 50 years in prison

By Ken de la Bastide
Kokomo Tribune

TIPTON, Ind. — James Rice entered a plea of guilty in the November 2010 death of 4-year-old Dylan Cast during an emotional hearing Wednesday in Tipton Circuit Court.

Rice pleaded guilty to a Class A felony charge of battery causing death. He could face up to 50 years in prison.

After accepting the terms of a plea agreement between Rice and Tipton County Prosecutor Jay Rich, Judge Thomas Lett set sentencing for Aug. 1. In return, the state will dismiss charges of a class A felony charge of neglect and a Class C felony charge of reckless homicide.

During a brief appearance in court, Rice appeared to wipe his eyes several times as his attorney, Zaki Ali,  of Anderson, asked him about Dylan’s death at the family’s home in the town of Hobbs.

During the hearing Rice said he became upset after Dylan had soiled his pants. He said he struck the child. When asked if he believed the strike caused Dylan’s death, Rice said he was not positive. “But based on all the evidence, yes,” he said.

Rich said Dylan’s family members were consulted and agreed with the plea agreement. The boy’s mother, Ashley Schroeder, broke down in tears after the court hearing. She declined to comment.

Following the hearing, Lett asked everyone in the courtroom to remain there until Rice was transported from the Tipton County Courthouse back to the Howard County jail.

“This is a sad case,” Ali said, “there are no winners.” Ali said it was Rice’s decision to enter into the plea agreement.

“We will present evidence at the sentencing hearing that will show James [Rice] is truly remorseful for his behavior that day,” Ali said.

According to the probable cause affidavit filed with the court, Dylan was disciplined by Rice after he had an accident while being potty trained on the morning of Nov. 26, 2010. At the time, Rice was the boyfriend of Dylan’s mother and had been caring for the boy and his 5-year-old sibling. The child’s mother was at work at the time of Dylan’s injuries. Dylan was taken to Tipton County Hospital, where he later died.

The autopsy report filed by Dr. Paul Mellen determined Dylan died of blunt force trauma. His reports state that Dylan’s spine was fractured and his aorta was lacerated, according to court records. The report also stated that the injuries were not consistent with a spanking or falling off a bed, and it would have taken extreme force to fracture the child’s spine. Police also said Rice waited about an hour after he found Dylan unresponsive before calling 911.

Ken de la Bastide is the Kokomo Tribune enterprise editor. He can be reached at 765-454-8580 or via e-mail at ken.delabastide@kokomotribune.com.