Mario Toscano

Mario Toscano Jr.

Plea negotiations are underway in a murder case that the prosecution said would not be settled.

Assistant Cochise County Attorney Michael Powell said he could not comment on the specific details of the negotiations in the murder case against Mario Toscano Jr. The Douglas man is accused of beating a 2-year-old boy to death in January.

But last week, there was a three-hour settlement conference in Cochise County Superior Court Judge Terry Bannon’s courtroom, and while no plea offer emerged, the negotiations continue.

The case had been classified as “complex” by Cochise County Superior Court Judge Timothy Dickerson in June after a request from the prosecution.

In 2005, the Arizona Court of Appeals defined a complex case as, “a case so complicated by virtue of its nature or because of the evidence required, that the ordinary limits for the time to trial are insufficient and must be extended to afford more time to prepare so that the case can be fairly and fully presented.”

At a hearing in August, Powell said the case would not be settled: “There will be no plea agreement. This case is going to trial.” In an email to the Herald/Review following the hearing, Powell reiterated his stance: “I believe that in this case there isn’t a plea that would be appropriate.”

The circumstances that changed the dynamics of the case are unknown. Powell said he could not comment and Toscano’s attorney, Rodrigo Andrade of the Cochise County Legal Advocate Office, did not return two phone messages left Friday by the newspaper.

Toscano is charged with second-degree murder, child abuse and aggravated assault in the death of the toddler. The child died on Jan. 7 at a Tucson hospital, Cochise County Sheriff’s Office investigators said.

The suspect was arrested in Douglas by the sheriff’s office on Jan. 5 after investigators were notified by staff at the emergency room of Douglas’ Copper Queen Hospital that the child was not breathing and had questionable injuries, records show.

Detectives questioned hospital staff, the boy’s mother, Erika Parra, and Toscano. Following those interviews, they obtained a search warrant and combed through the house where Parra lived with Toscano, the victim and a baby girl.

The boy, meanwhile, had been stabilized at Copper Queen Hospital and was then taken to Tucson, where he died a few days later, authorities said. A grand jury indicted Toscano on the second-degree murder charge on Jan. 9.

Parra also was charged with child abuse, but she failed to show up in court and has yet to be arrested, Powell said recently. Toscano remains in custody at the Santa Cruz County Jail.