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HomeNewsLocal newsKyle Christopher Takes Plea Deal in Beating Death of Aaron Benjamin, 4

Kyle Christopher Takes Plea Deal in Beating Death of Aaron Benjamin, 4

Kyle Christopher has taken a plea deal in the 2019 beating death of Aaron Benjamin Jr., age 4, agreeing to plead guilty to one count of aggravated child abuse and neglect just days before his trial that was scheduled to start on Monday.

Kyle Christopher (VIPD photo)
Kyle Christopher (VIPD photo)

Christopher had faced seven counts altogether, including two charges of first-degree murder, two charges of aggravated child abuse and neglect, and one count each of child abuse, child neglect and third-degree assault.

It is unclear from the court docket when Christopher will be sentenced, and neither the Justice Department nor the Public Defender’s Office responded to requests for comment Monday on the plea deal.

The aggravated child abuse and neglect charge carries a prison term of five to 30 years, according to the plea agreement, which was signed on Thursday. The remaining charges have been dismissed with prejudice, meaning they may not be brought again.

The agreement also states that “all parties assert that no one has made any promises in connection with this matter,” and that “each party reserves their respective rights of allocution at sentencing,” meaning they may address the court on matters that could affect the penalty handed down.

Christopher has been in custody since his arrest in the beating death of Aaron in 2019 in a case that shocked the community. Aaron’s mother, Delicia Daniel, who was Christopher’s girlfriend at the time, also was charged and currently is serving a 20-year sentence after taking a plea deal in which she pleaded guilty to a single charge of child abuse in October 2021.

Aaron Benjamin Jr. (Source file photo)
Aaron Benjamin Jr. (Source file photo)

First responders found the child unresponsive on the bathroom floor of an apartment at the Lorraine Village housing community on St. Croix on Oct. 11, 2019, after receiving a 911 call. They tried to administer CPR but were unsuccessful, according to reports at the time. They said Aaron had been badly abused, was malnourished, and had different stages of lacerations about his body, the police reported.

Aaron was found to have died of blunt force trauma, and according to police and court reports, had bruises on his nose, a lump on his right cheek, bruises on his back and his butt cheeks, and scars on his butt cheeks, some black and some lighter.

Christopher and Daniel — who were 22 and 29 at the time, respectively — were arrested about a week after the child’s death and were each held on $1 million bail.

Christopher’s case has been beset by delays. He was set to stand trial on April 11, 2022, but Superior Court Judge Harold Willocks agreed just days before to continue the case after a series of events led the Public Defender’s Office to ask for more time to prepare.

Most notably, Christopher accepted a plea deal on April 1, 2022, agreeing to plead guilty to aggravated child abuse and neglect. However, the Attorney General’s Office immediately objected, noting the offer was from 2020 and had been withdrawn.

The snafu occurred when a new public defender took over the case and while going through the files to familiarize themselves with the issues located the November 2020 plea offer, which they thought was still valid.

Christopher then sought a change of venue last September, citing the intense publicity around Daniel’s sentencing, with his public defender arguing that allowing the case to proceed on St. Croix would violate his right to a fair trial by an impartial jury.

Delecia Daniel and her boyfriend, Kyle Christopher, were arrested and charged with the death of Daniel's 4-year-old son, Aaron Benjamin Jr. (VIPD photos)
Delecia Daniel (VIPD photo)

“Local media coverage surrounding this case has been extensive, with several of the digital news forums linking autopsy findings, calls for justice and reform within the USVI Department of Human Services,” the motion stated. “Such calls to action, editorials and public outcry have generated a hostile atmosphere which has poisoned the potential jury pool with unaddressed feelings of anger and distress in members of the community to social justice issues beyond that of the normal reporting of the news,” it said.

According to the motion, “Comments left on social media platforms have made it evident that in the eyes of potential jurors, Mr. Christopher’s guilt has already been decided in the court of public opinion,” and the size and demographics of the territory would make it impossible to find a jury pool that was not tainted by the pretrial publicity.

Willocks denied the motion in March.

According to reports at the time, Aaron’s biological father said that he had previously contacted Human Services with concerns about his child’s welfare. In the months after his son’s death the department conducted an internal audit to find out what went wrong.

Commissioner Kimberley Causey-Gomez said in January 2020 that while the audit showed no negligence by department staff, it did show weaknesses in its structure and policies.

Beyond additional training for staff, “Technical assistance is underway to complete a review of the Virgin Islands statutory Children’s Policy, in an effort to identify areas in need of federal compliance as a vehicle to inform needed upgrades to the local practice model for child welfare,” Causey-Gomez said at the time.

This would include establishing a Child Fatality Review Panel of multiagency experts to facilitate expeditious, transparent and ongoing assessment and investigation of incidences to help aid in prevention, she said.

Just before she was sentenced in February 2022, a tearful Daniel apologized to the court.

“I should have gotten the bus to take my child. I want to apologize to my mom and to my great-grandmom for the suffering I put them through. I also apologize to the people of St. Croix. Everybody may think I’m a monster, but that’s not true. I’m just guilty of making wrong decisions,” she said.

The judge replied that it was apparent Daniel had suffered throughout the ordeal, but even a chicken will protect her chicks from harm.

“You have to understand, you are the mother. I don’t mean to be harsh on you, because I know you are suffering. I hear you say you are not a monster. You are not a monster at all, but you stopped being a mother,” Willocks said.

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