WDAY: The News Leader

Published September 09, 2013, 06:40 PM

Perez sentenced for death of toddler

Ada, MN (WDAY TV) - A man convicted of killing a toddler in Ada, Minnesota has been sentence to 20 years behind bars.

By: Becky Parker, WDAY

Ada, MN (WDAY TV) - A man convicted of killing a toddler in Ada, Minnesota has been sentence to 20 years behind bars.

Raul Perez of Dilworth pleaded guilty to second-degree murder.

He was charged in the death of 22-month-old Ariel Reyes, the daughter of Perez's girlfriend at the time.

Ariel died of head and neck trauma, while Perez was watching her and her brother.

6-year-old Alex testified at today's sentencing to prove he witnessed the crime; an aggravating factor in the case.

James Brue- Norman County Attorney: "At that age, he's six years old now, testifying to something he witnessed at five years old. I think it was hard for him to put into words what he saw. You could see in the courtroom, he knows what he saw, just hard to put into words."

The courtroom was full of family members.

And though Perez got a stiffer sentence than court guidelines recommend, Ariel's family says it's still not enough.

It was just over a year ago that Ariel Reyes lived the last day of her short life.

The 22-month-old died two days after suffering severe head and neck trauma.

Now, the man responsible for her death has been sentenced to 20 years in prison, but some of her family members say that's not enough.

Ida Reyes- Ariel’s Aunt: "It was justice, but not enough. He took an innocent child's life that we will never get to enjoy."

Court guidelines recommend about a twelve and a half year sentence for similar crimes if the offender has no criminal record.

But in Perez's case, aggravating factors, including the fact that Ariel's now six-year-old brother Alex witnessed the crime, led the judge to impose a longer sentence.

We spoke with Ariel's father, Robert Reyes Jr., who says he can't understand how someone who took the life of a child will spend only 20 years in prison and wishes there would have been a harsher sentence.

Before the sentence was handed down, Perez read an apology to the family.

Robert, who also goes by "Jay," asked to leave the courtroom. Nothing Perez could say would make up for the loss of his daughter.

Reyes: "All we have left is her burial. That's where we spend time daily. Daily, Jay and I come and we stop and visit her."

The court proceedings may be over, but battling the pain of losing this sweet little girl will never end.

Reyes: "Daddy's little girl and is gone forever."

The Reyes family says there is some relief knowing Perez finally admitted to the crime with his guilty plea.