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Md. man pleads guilty in fatal abuse of 2-year-old, faces up to 55 years in prison


FREDERICK, Maryland — A Frederick County man has pleaded guilty to fatally abusing a 2-year-old boy by kicking and shaking the toddler, beating him with a belt and cleaning his teeth with a wire brush meant for barbecue grills.

The Frederick News-Post reported ( ) that Raymond Matthew Brittle, 40, of Thurmont pleaded guilty Thursday to first- and second-degree child abuse resulting in the Sept. 8, 2013, death of Robert Watkins. Prosecutors dropped other charges, including second-degree murder, in a plea deal.

Robert's mother had put the boy in Brittle's care about six months earlier. She considered Brittle her step-grandfather, State's Attorney Charlie Smith said.

Brittle faces up to 55 years in prison at his sentencing Feb. 3, including up to 40 for first-degree child abuse. Smith said he will ask for the maximum on that charge.

"The 40 years are there for the most egregious cases. And this is it," Smith said.

Defense attorney Margaret Teahan said the defense will ask the judge to recommend that Brittle serve his sentence at the Patuxent Institution, which provides psychiatric and substance-abuse treatment to eligible prisoners.

Brittle's wife, Melissa, 37, pleaded guilty Nov. 12 to first-degree child abuse resulting in death, which prosecutors said reflected her failure to protect the boy. Prosecutors dropped other charges under her plea deal, which includes a prison sentence of up to 20 years.

Although she cooperated in the investigation, prosecutors said Melissa Brittle first tried to cover up the crimes by telling hospital workers that Robert's injuries came from falls.

The couple coached their own children, ages 6 to 15, to tell authorities Robert had fallen down stairs, Smith said.

Information from: The Frederick (Md.) News-Post,

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