By Jon Schroeder
The Cove Herald
GATESVILLE — A Copperas Cove man was sentenced Monday to life imprisonment after he pleaded guilty to murder in connection with the death of his 23-month-old son in March. He had originally been charged with capital murder and first-degree felony injury.
Before the scheduled jury selection began in the trial of Antoine Shields on Monday, he changed his plea — not the norm, but not uncommon, said 52nd District Attorney David Castillo.
Sometimes, defendants want a full trial at first, but then “they decide it’s best at that time to take a plea,” he said.
Shields was subsequently sentenced to life imprisonment, 52nd District Court Coordinator Laurie Morse said.
The child’s 22-year-old mother, Tashawna Vanhardenberg, is being held in Coryell County jail and will still face trial Jan. 22 in district court. She’s been charged with injury to a child by omission, Castillo said.
“The Copperas Cove Police Department did their job of collecting the evidence and putting the evidence together,” he said. “Without the fine work that they did, it would have been a lot harder to prove.”
Keyken Vanhardenberg-Wade was killed March 24, though the parents’ accounts of his death differed, according to the arrest affidavits.
Police records state the parents told officers upon arrival the boy was injured when one of his siblings pulled a microwave down on top of the child’s head at the Cactus Motel in Copperas Cove.
However, when questioned separately, Shields told officers the child was injured when Vanhardenberg threw the boy and caught him by the leg, causing him to hit his head on the floor.
According to the affidavit, Shields said that he “was able to hear the bone shatter and break and that Keyken was then unable to walk or respond.”
When Vanhardenberg was questioned, however, she told police she had been away from home but returned to find the child, who was unresponsive, being held in the shower by Shields, the affidavit states.
Shields and Vanhardenberg failed to notify authorities and emergency personnel until at least one hour after the injury occurred.
Contact Jon Schroeder at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 547-0428