Thursday, the court detailed the extensive injuries he caused and highlighted how the CYFD might have played a part. “You are a truly evil man, Mr. Marquez, and you deserve to spend the rest of your life in prison,” read Prosecutor Savannah Brandenburg.
That’s what first responders who tried to save James Dunklee in 2019 had to say to the four-year-old’s killer, Zerrick Marquez, in court Thursday. State prosecutors read statements and explained the horrific abuse the boy went through. Dunklee had skull fractures, broken bones, and multiple bruises. He had a total of 30 injuries across his body.
“This wasn’t just a one-time incident, this was his whole life, but more importantly, for four months, he went through extreme pain, extreme neglect,” said Prosecutor Savannah Brandenburg.
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A new video was played in court, which shows Marquez’s daughters describing the abuse. Judge Stan Whitaker also placed blamed CYFD. The agency had been called at least 13 times.
Whitaker says CYFD should have taken him out of a dangerous situation. “I’ve heard much about the system about how it continuously fails. We hear too much of this. We hear too much of CYFD going in and seeing folks and seeing children in situations where probably kids should be taken out,” says Judge Whitaker.
Dunklee’s grandfather, Kevin Nelson, also said in court Thursday that his death could have been avoided. “I mean, if you were unhappy with James being in your home, you could have always just dropped him off by my house. I would have gladly taken him in as I have time and time again,” said grandfather Kevin Nelson.
Judge Whitaker said this was one of the worst cases he’d ever seen in his career and sentenced Marquez to life. He will be eligible for parole after 30 years. “I certainly hope that if you serve the 30 years in uh DOC, that you find some way to reflect about the gravity that you’ve done to somehow change you from what is certainly a clear example of sort of evil,” said Judge Whitaker.
Last month Marquez tried to take back his plea deal, but the judge denied him. Thursday, Marquez’s attorney said she plans to take the case to the state supreme court.