ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – The man charged with beating four-year-old James Dunklee to death admitted to the crime when he pled guilty. Now he wants to change his mind and back out of the plea deal. 

Zerrick Marquez pleaded guilty to intentional child abuse resulting in death at the end of March in the murder of James Dunklee. The four-year-old was found beaten to death at Marquez’ apartment near Louisiana and Central in December of 2019.

It was alleged that James and his mom were staying at Marquez’s place, and the boy looked up to him. This is what Marquez told police at the scene,  “He went to the restroom. Checked out his ear and said, ‘I don’t feel good, dad,’ and fell back, and then he hit his head against the wall.”

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The autopsy confirmed he’d been abused for months. Marquez was taken into custody months later. In the plea agreement, Marquez originally took in March, he agreed to serve a life sentence that comes with the possibility of parole after 30 years. 

Savannah Brandenburg is the state prosecutor. She explained, “Because of his conduct by beating him over a matter of months, and resulting in at least 50 different injuries to James Dunklee, that he caused the death of James Dunklee.”

According to the motion filed to withdraw his plea, Marquez claimed he thought he’d be released after 30 years and that his attorney at the time did not explain that parole is only a possibility.

The state filed a 29-page response to Marquez’s motion, stating there was no indication that Marquez misunderstood or was unaware of the terms of the plea agreement. 

The state is asking the court to deny the move and proceed to sentencing. Zerrick Marquez’s new attorney declined to comment on this motion to withdraw his guilty plea; his next hearing is set for September 27.