The Minneapolis man who admitted to throwing a 5-year-old boy over a third-floor railing at the Mall of America earlier this year offered no apology and no explanation for his actions before he was sentenced Monday morning to 19 years in prison.
“Is there anything you want to say?” asked Hennepin County District Judge Jeannice Reding.
“No,” said Emmanuel D. Aranda, dressed in an untucked button-down shirt and slacks.
The Woodbury boy named Landen survived the shocking incident, which captured worldwide attention, but suffered massive head trauma and fractures in his arms and legs. His parents did not attend Aranda’s sentencing, but provided victim-impact statements that were read aloud in court. Both said they forgive Aranda, and that their son’s story has touched people across the world.
“I’m not letting you take any part of our family,” said the boy’s mother. “You’re not taking our love, our joy, our peace; you’re not taking anything! I refuse to be full of anger and hatred. I refuse to let you take my joy.”
Family spokeswoman Kathy Tunheim, who was in attendance, said the boy remains in “treatment,” and that the family continues to ask for privacy. Neither parents’ names were mentioned in court, although they gave permission for their son to be identified by his first name.
“He continues to heal,” Tunheim said.
Aranda, 24, pleaded guilty last month to one count of attempted first-degree murder for the April 12 incident. The prison term, the maximum recommended for Aranda by state sentencing guidelines, was agreed upon in the plea deal.
Landen’s parents both credited God with saving their son.
“On what was a normal day for us, a day of fun and playing, a day meant for good, you chose to commit a horrific violent act, an act intended for harm, [an] act intended to kill and destroy,” his father’s statement said. “… Our boy was saved that day in miraculous ways as testimony to the goodness and greatness of God …”
The boy’s mother said she would neither hate nor judge Aranda.
“God will judge you someday, and I have peace with that,” she said. “I hand it off to him and you will take none of my thoughts ever again. I am done with you.”
Aranda did not address his motive at his plea hearing or sentencing, but the criminal complaint against him said he went to the mall “looking for someone to kill” because he was angry that women there had rejected his attempts to talk with them.
According to the complaint, Aranda said he planned to kill an adult because they usually stand near the balcony, but he chose the boy instead.
The boy’s mother told police that she, her son, a friend and the friend’s child were outside of the Rainforest Cafe when Aranda approached them.
She said Aranda came close to them, then, “without warning, Defendant picked up the Victim and threw him off the third floor balcony,” the complaint said.
Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Cheri Townsend, who read the parents’ statements, called their capacity for forgiveness “astonishing.”
“The terror that Landen must have felt and the terror his mother felt watching it is unimaginable,” Townsend said.
Townsend credited the team of first responders and doctors who “tirelessly” cared for Landen for his recovery, which is updated on a GoFundMe page that has raised more than $1 million.
The most recent update, posted late last month, read: “Over the past several weeks, our son has suffered from nonlife-threatening complications from his injuries which have required additional procedures to correct. He is recovering, and his spirit is strong — but there is still a long road ahead.”
Aranda’s mother, Becky Aranda, attended the sentencing and said afterward that her son had been spending time at the mall because he was homeless. She continued to express concern that her son’s mental health problems were not appropriately addressed before he pleaded guilty.
“I don’t think justice was done,” she said.
Becky Aranda said her son has struggled with mental health problems since he was 3, and has received multiple diagnoses through the years that required visits with a therapist and medication, including autism, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and schizophrenia.
“We were not sure, exactly,” she said of his true mental health problems. “We just know that this illness would flare up. He would be fine most of the time … and all of a sudden, out of the blue it would just kick in out of nowhere.”
She said her son has medical records in Illinois that are pertinent to his case, but that he had to request them himself because he is an adult. Becky Aranda previously said her son refused to meet with family members to address the issue before his plea, and apparently refused to sign consent forms to release the records.
Townsend addressed the issue at sentencing, noting that Aranda planned the attack, fled and expressed a motive when he was questioned by authorities.
“His actions were deliberate,” Townsend said, adding that Aranda “grievously wronged” the boy and his family.
Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty, whose office represented Aranda, said that while she understands the questions around Aranda’s case, her office has a duty to observe attorney-client confidentiality.
“Our relationship with our clients is sacred to us,” she said.