ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Zerrick Marquez, the man accused of beating four-year-old James Dunklee to death is trying to withdraw the plea he made in March. Marquez pleaded guilty to intentional child abuse resulting in death but on Tuesday, asked to take back the plea, claiming he didn’t realize he could spend the rest of his life in prison for the crime.
Marquez claims he thought he’d be getting out of prison after thirty years, something his former attorney disputed. “I explained to him that a life sentence would mean that he would have to serve 30 years before he becomes eligible for parole,” says attorney Keren Fenderson.
“She went over the plea but she just said it was 30 years,” Marquez said in the hearing.
That sentence is outlined on the front page of the plea deal he signed, saying he agreed to a life sentence for intentional child abuse resulting in death. This is in exchange for avoiding other charges. Marquez says he misunderstood, thinking he would automatically be released after 30 years, and did not understand it was just a possibility.
Marquez beat four-year-old James Dunklee to death almost three years ago at his apartment near the fairgrounds. The boy and his mother, Krista Cruz, were living with Marquez at the time and evidence showed Dunklee had been abused for months.
After a half hour of testimony Tuesday, Judge Stan Whitaker quickly made a ruling. “I’m going to deny the motion,” Judge Whitaker said. “I don’t find that it’s credible that Ms. Fenderson didn’t go over the specifics in terms of the difference. I think she was very clear.”
The judge even reminded Marquez that he asked him back in March if he had any questions about the plea deal and Marquez stayed silent. And the judge made it clear that being eligible for parole after 30 years is no guarantee he’ll get out of prison.
Cruz is scheduled to go on trial for reckless child abuse resulting in death next October. Investigators say Cruz knew Marquez was abusing her son and still left the boy with him.