30 years for man who smothered baby, tossed him in garbage
BY Jim Newton Sun-Times Media September 2, 2014 1:24PM
Joshua Summeries was smothered to death by his mother's boyfriend. His body has never been found. | Provided
Updated: September 2, 2014 8:46PM
A Zion man was sentenced to 30 years in prison Tuesday for murdering his former girlfriend’s 5-month-old baby last summer and tossing the body in a dumpster.
Demetries Thorpe, 27, pleaded guilty in July to one count of first-degree murder in the death of Joshua Summeries, whose body was never recovered. In exchange for the guilty plea, prosecutors had agreed to a 35-year sentencing cap.
“He looked to you for comfort as a father figure. Instead, what he got at your hands was pain and death,” Judge Daniel Shanes told Thorpe just prior to handing down the sentence. “How horrible to think that his tombstone is literally a bunch of garbage.”
According to police and prosecutors, Thorpe woke early on Aug. 21, 2013, to the sound of the child crying. Police said Thorpe admitted he smothered the baby by placing his hand over Joshua’s mouth for several seconds, then putting him in a backpack, which he threw from a window.
Thorpe, who was staying with Joshua’s mother at the time, also told police he moved the baby into a dumpster, which was emptied by a garbage truck soon after. Authorities led an exhaustive search of a Zion landfill for several days, but never found the child’s body.
At the sentencing hearing, Shanes was shown security videotapes taken outside a Zion apartment building that showed Thorpe placing a bag officials said contained the baby into a dumpster, and then watching as it was emptied by a garbage truck.
Before being sentenced, Thorpe apologized in court to the baby’s family and to his own family.
“I also accept full responsibility for what happened,” Thorpe said. “I offer no excuses.”
A statement from the baby’s mother, Kisha Summaries, also was read at the sentencing. She was present, but chose not to read it herself.
“Demetries robbed me of everything. I can’t hold my baby. I can’t be a mother to him,” she wrote. “He was such a happy baby. His laugh made me happy.”
Summaries wrote that Joshua had just started saying “mama,” and that “thinking he is somewhere in a landfill is so hard. I wonder if he is mad at me for what happened. People who kill kids shouldn’t be allowed to have their freedom.”
Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim, who helped prosecute the case, had asked for the 35-year maximum.
“He placed baby Joshua in a bag and threw him away in a garbage can,” Nerheim said. “An innocent defenseless child, who was depending on the defendant, will forever rest in peace in a landfill.”
Defense attorney Jeff Facklam pushed for the minimum 20-year sentence, arguing that although Thorpe made “bad decision after bad decision,” there were mitigating factors. He said Thorpe was abused by his parents, then removed from that home and physically and sexually abused by his first foster parents. He was diagnosed with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and major depression as a teen, but did well when he had access to medicine, graduating from high school and finding employment, Facklam said.
He has been in counseling and treatment programs while in jail.
“He is not a lost cause,” Facklam said.
Shanes said he took Thorpe’s past into consideration as well as the guilty plea, which spared Joshua’s family a trial. In reaching the sentence, Shanes concluded the 30 years punishes Thorpe for “reprehensible” conduct and would deter others.
Thorpe must serve the entire prison sentence, and must register as a violent crimes against children offender after his release, according to the state’s attorney’s office. He was given credit for the 378 days he has already spent in Lake County Jail.