By Jon Schroeder
Killeen Daily Herald
GATESVILLE – A Copperas Cove man was sentenced Monday to life in prison after he pleaded guilty to charges of capital murder and one count of first-degree felony injury in connection with the death of his 23-month-old son last March.
Before the scheduled jury selection began Monday in the trial of Antoine Shields, he changed his innocent pleas to guilty.
David Castillo, 52nd District Attorney, said the move was out of the ordinary but not uncommon.
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 subsequently was 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 face trial Jan. 22 in district court. She has 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," Castillo said. "Without the fine work that they did, it would have been a lot harder to prove."
Keyken Vanhardenberg-Wade was killed March 24, 2007, though the parents' accounts of his death differed, according to the arrest affidavits.
Police records state the parents told officers upon arrival that 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