Valdez pleads guilty to second degree murder

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A Joplin man is heading to prison after admitting he’s responsible for the death of a local boy.

Leonard Valdez changed his plea in Jasper County court today. The 22 year old said he is responsible in the 2017 death of three year old Jonathon Munoz Bilbrey.

“Every day is torment without my grandson and we just miss him so much,” says Crystal Hunt, victim’s grandmother.

Several family members of Jonathon Munoz Bilbrey were in court – witnessing the end of the case against Leonard Valdez. He pleaded guilty in the death of the Joplin three year old. The assistant prosecutor detailed her case, including reports from both a Kansas City hospital and an autopsy pointing to abusive head trauma. She also talked about a phone call from Valdez while in jail, admitting he first shook Munoz Bilbrey then threw him to the ground when the boy wouldn’t stop crying.

“Reckless behavior results in injury which then results in death so they are very difficult cases for all the parties involved,” says Theresa Kenney, Jasper County Prosecutor.

Valdez was sentenced to 22 years in prison and must serve most of that time before he’s even considered for parole.

“This is a dangerous felony which means the defendant will be required to serve 85 percent before being considered eligible for parole,” says Kenney.

And family members plan to be a part of the process when that happens – fighting the possibility of parole.

“I’ve got the forms right here to fill out to ensure that we are contacted in an appropriate manner. there’s no amount of time that can bring our grandson back,” says Crystal Hunt.

Valdez pleaded guilty to second degree murder as part of the plea bargain – while another count in the case was dropped. That was a charge of child abuse or neglect resulting in death.

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