CLEVELAND, Ohio (AP) — A jury in Cleveland found a man guilty of involuntary manslaughter but acquitted him of murder in the death of a 4-year-old boy whose body was found in three trash bags in September 2017.
After a two week trial, a jury found Romaine Tolbert, 38, guilty of involuntary manslaughter, kidnapping, endangering children, gross abuse of a corpse and tampering with evidence in the death of Eliazar Ruiz.
Tolbert’s wife, Joanne Vega, was also charged in connection with Ruiz’s death, but she took a plea bargain that included a reduction of her charges in exchange for testifying against Tolbert.
Tolbert faces up to 20 years in prison, which will be determined in a sentencing hearing that has not yet been scheduled.
Tolbert and Vega cared for Ruiz, who was not their child, starting in 2016. His mother, Ashley Makuhan, was a friend of Vega’s. Both testified that Ruiz was not in their care when he died. Tolbert admitted on the stand to putting Ruiz’s body in trash bags and leaving the bags on his back deck for weeks before deciding what to do with them.
A landscaper found the remains in the bushes behind a house in Cleveland. The Cuyahoga County Medical Examiner determined that Ruiz died by homicide but could not determine exactly how because of the extent of decomposition of the remains.
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