State Supreme Court upholds murder conviction

Vincent Soilberry's mugshot / Dougherty County Jail

On Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court unanimously upheld the murder conviction and life prison sentence given to a man for beating to death his girlfriend's three-year-old son after the child soiled himself.

Vincent Soilberry was convicted in 2009 by a Dougherty County jury of malice murder, felony murder, two counts of cruelty to children in the first degree, aggravated assault and two counts of aggravated battery. He was sentenced to life plus 40 years in prison.

According to officials, Soilberry â" who was approximately 18 years old at the time â" was babysitting his girlfriend's son, Shondorius Roney, when he called 911 in the early hours of May 2, 2008. They say paramedics found the little boy in an empty bathtub, covered with feces and having trouble breathing; the child later died.

According to the Georgia Supreme Court, Soilberry initially told police and a nurse at the hospital that he'd left the child in the bathtub for a few moments while he mopped the floor in the other room. They say after he was later given his Miranda warnings, Soilberry confessed that when the little boy soiled his pants, he flew into a rage, punched the child in his right side and kneed him in the chest.

At trial, Soilberry testified that all his previous accounts were lies and that Shondorius was killed by vengeful junkies after a bad drug deal.

In Monday's opinion, written by Justice Harold Melton, the state Supreme Court rejects his arguments. Melton says in the opinion that the evidence "was amply sufficient to enable the jurors to find Soilberry guilty of the crimes for which he was convicted beyond a reasonable doubt â| Soilberry's contention that his confession that he hit the child was involuntary is also wholly meritless."

However, the trial court erred by failing to merge Soilberry's conviction for aggravated battery into his conviction for murder, the opinion states. As a result, the high court has thrown out his 20-year sentence for that crime and is sending the case back to the trial court to correct his sentence.