Mom's boyfriend charged in St. Paul tot's death

  • Article by: PAT PHEIFER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 1, 2011 - 12:22 AM

Demetrius C. Willis, 23, has a history of domestic abuse as a juvenile and an adult.

Demetrius Willis

Almost 16 months after Julian James-Robert Williams, 2, was viciously punched or kicked to death, a St. Paul man has been indicted by a grand jury on charges of second-degree murder in the tot's death.

Demetrius C. Willis, 23, the boyfriend of Julian's mother, made a brief appearance Monday afternoon in Ramsey County District Court and was ordered held on $500,000 bail.

The grand jury handed up its indictment Thursday; it was public Monday. Willis is charged with aiding and abetting unintentional second-degree murder while committing first-degree assault, three other counts of second-degree murder, two counts of first-degree manslaughter and one count of second-degree manslaughter. His next court appearance is Feb. 14.

No criminal complaint will be filed, but other court documents depict Julian's last hours:

Willis and Julian's mother were at the home of Willis' mother and stepfather when they called 911 about 5 a.m. on Sept. 10, 2009. Julian had been "restless and whiny" between 2 and 5 a.m., the couple told investigators, and when Willis picked up the boy about 5 a.m., he was "lifeless."

A surgeon who operated on Julian later told police that he removed quantities of blood from the boy's abdominal cavity and knew then that Julian probably wouldn't survive. The toddler had lacerations on his liver, spleen and pancreas, probably from being repeatedly punched or kicked, the surgeon said.

Later that day, Julian's death was ruled a homicide.

A search warrant affidavit unsealed in November said Julian's mother was "evasive and uncooperative" when hospital staff and investigators asked about Julian's injuries. Willis was "defensive."

Julian and his mother had taken the bus from their E. Arlington Avenue home to see Willis at his parents' St. Paul home in the 800 block of York Avenue about 8:45 p.m. on Sept. 9. Willis was alone with the boy for about five minutes while his mother went to Rainbow Foods.

Willis told police that Julian slept in his basement bedroom while he and the boy's mother "watched movies and had sex until about 2 a.m. when ... Julian started to cry." They gave him water and he went back to sleep. When he picked the boy up at 5 a.m., Willis said, Julian wasn't breathing.

Willis has a history of domestic abuse as a juvenile and an adult, police have said. He was released from St. Cloud prison in February 2009 after serving 14 months of a 21-month sentence for violating an order for protection filed against him by a former girlfriend, who is the mother of his 6-year-old son.

Willis and Julian's mother were arrested the day the boy died, but both were released pending further investigation. Neither has cooperated with authorities, police have said.

Pat Pheifer • 612-741-4992

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