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Colorado Man Convicted for Second Time of Killing Girlfriend’s 2-Year-Old Son After Blaming Toddler’s Severe Injuries on Family’s Pit Bull


John White appears in a mugshot

A Colorado man has now been twice convicted — after two trials — of murdering his then-girlfriend’s 2-year-old boy in May 2015.

John Melvin White, 40, was found guilty of murder in the first degree over the death of Michael “Mikey” Lara in December 2016. He was sentenced to life in prison, an automatic sentence in the Centennial State for first-degree murder convictions, along with an additional 24 years, run consecutively, on a count of child abuse resulting in death.

In October 2020, in an unpublished and unanimous opinion, the Colorado Court of Appeals reversed White’s conviction and remanded the case back down “with directions” for the lower court. The Colorado Supreme Court declined to review the case in June 2021.

According to the Weld County District Attorney’s Office, the conviction was overturned “because of legal issues in the 2016 trial.”

During both trials, jurors were shown evidence that Lara suffered severe injuries, including bruises to his head and back, burns to his face and neck from a hair dryer, and an injury to his penis. White was babysitting the toddler at the time those injuries were sustained.

The defendant claimed the boy fell down the steps of the residence – and blamed the alleged fall on the family’s pit bull dog.

Medical examiners disputed that account, saying the boy’s trauma was far too great and varied to have been caused by a fall alone. A toxicology report on the defendant showed that he was under the influence of methamphetamine while he was babysitting Lara.

After an 11-day trial, White was convicted the first time.

“I would like to tell you about the day I taught Mikey to drive…or the day he graduated…or the day he made me a grandparent,” Michael Lara Sr., the boy’s father, said after the initial conviction. “But you took all of those moments away from me, John. You took him away from our family…You will now sit in your cell with only your nightmares.”

According to Denver-based Fox affiliate KDVR, the boy’s father said that child protection agents in Weld County never followed up on his referral over a suspicious bruise on his son’s chest before he died. The Colorado Child Protection Ombudsman reportedly said Weld County should have investigated after that referral.

“This kind of case changes you,” Weld County Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wrenn said during the defendant’s first sentencing hearing. “I met Mikey when he laid on a cold, metal gurney, and it changed me…Every murder is a tragedy, but the murder of a child is an attack on the community as a whole.”

Wrenn would go on to prosecute the case during the second trial as well.

“Twenty-four people from our community, across two jury trials, have now confirmed what we’ve always argued was the truth,” the prosecutor said at the Tuesday sentencing hearing immediately after the verdict. “That this defendant killed Mikey and that this was not an accident.”

The boy’s father also spoke again.

“Here I am sitting in front of you, begging and fighting, one last time,” he said to the judge, requesting the maximum sentence.

During his second sentencing hearing, White was assessed 48 years on the child abuse charge.

[image via Weld County District Attorney’s Office]

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