BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - A man who is accused of brutally beating his girlfriend's three-year-old son to death returned to court Monday morning. Justin Crouse didn't say much in the courtroom. The majority of the time he just kept his head down and avoided eye contact with the victim's family.
Crouse pleaded not guilty to murdering his girlfriend's son in Erie County Court. Crouse is accused of beating Gage Seneca to death earlier this month. The 30 year old's defense attorney spoke on his client's behalf.
Defense attorney Robert Goldstein said, "He's very nervous, very scared, the charges against him at very serious and he's in fear of his like in the Holding Center."
In court, the prosecution gave the defense attorney a statement and audio tape of an interview Crouse had with sheriff's deputies.
"We understand that there's a nine-hour taped statement from him, if it takes nine hours to get a voluntary statement, we have questions on how voluntary it is." Goldstein said, "In that statement, did he admit to doing it? I haven't seen the statement yet. We just were served with it today."
Prosecutors say Crouse struck the little boy in the back of the head after finding him out of bed. They say he then put the toddler back to bed and went to sleep.
Erie County Sheriff Timothy Howard said, "We're very certain that he is the individual responsible for striking the child that ultimately caused his death."
Detectives say everyone else in the house was asleep when the crime happened. When the family found the boy, he was unresponsive and they immediately called police. Now, Crouse is facing second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter charges.
Judge Penny Wolfgang says he will be remanded without bail. Crouse is expected back in Erie County Court on May 6th for a pre-trial hearing.
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