BISBEE — A trial date has been set in the murder case of a toddler whom authorities say was beaten to death more than a year ago.
While the attorney representing accused child killer Mario Toscano Jr. suggested waiting until early 2022 for a trial, Cochise County Superior Court Judge Timothy Dickerson, who expressed his frustration with the length of the case and the repeated continuances in the matter, set the date for Nov. 2.
“This case is really old, but it’s also very serious,” Dickerson said at the hearing Monday. “But I don’t want to have a hearing every month saying that we don’t have records...”
The 22-year-old Toscano is charged with second-degree murder for the January 2020 beating death of a 2-year-old boy. The child was the son of Toscano’s girlfriend, investigators said. Toscano is also charged with child abuse and aggravated assault in the death of the youngster. The toddler died on Jan. 7, 2020 at a Tucson hospital, Cochise County Sheriff’s Office investigators said.
The suspect was arrested prior to the toddler’s death 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. The charges were upgraded after the child died from his injuries.
This past December, Toscano asked for a new defense lawyer after his former attorney presented him with the plea agreement that had been worked out with county prosecutors — 35 years to life in prison. Toscano rejected the offer and asked Dickerson for a new attorney. The judge granted the request and Larson took over.
While Larson said Monday that he wasn’t convinced “that a criminal trial is necessary,” he did agree that setting a trial date was necessary. He told the judge he was the only one in his office who is handling lengthy felony matters, indicating that he has several videos to review in other cases that he is responsible for.
Assistant prosecutor Dan Akers, who was covering for colleague Michael Powell, agreed with the November trial date scheduled by Dickerson.
The judge said the trail date is a “firm one.” If the case does go to trial, it would likely last three weeks. Jury selection would probably be two days, Larson said.
Initially, Powell said in court that the state would not be offering Toscano a plea agreement because of the heinous nature of the case. But Dickerson asked that both sides attempt to negotiate. That’s when the state offered Toscano 35 years to life in prison.
The defendant’s former attorney Rodrigo Andrade told Dickerson that he warned Toscano that trial exposure would likely be worse, but Toscano disagreed.
A review hearing on the case is set for June 1 to determine whether Toscano is willing to enter a plea, or whether the matter will proceed to trial.