A La Paz County jury has convicted a California man on multiple charges in the death of his three-year-old daughter. Aaron Freeman, 26, of Blythe, Calif., was found guilty Oct. 1 in La Paz County Superior Court on nine of 11 counts in the 2017 death of his daughter, Autumn Shibley.
The jury found Shibley was abused by Freeman June 10, 2017 at the tire store in Ehrenberg, Ariz. where he worked. This abuse caused a ruptured stomach, which proved to be fatal. Shibley died in Loma Linda Children’s Hospital the following day.
The jury found Freeman guilty on nine counts, including first degree murder; second degree murder, a dangerous crime against children; child abuse, a dangerous crime against children for the ruptured stomach; aggravated assault on a minor, a dangerous crime against children for the ruptured stomach; aggravated assault on minor for the ruptured stomach; child abuse for a strike to Shibley’s face; aggravated assault for a strike to Shibley’s face; acting in a criminally negligent manner; and aggravated assault on a minor for smashing Shibley’s hand in a door.
The jury also found the prosecution proved the victim was a minor child, she was the defendant’s daughter, and her immediate family suffered emotional harm.
Freeman was found not guilty on two charges, aggravated assault and child abuse, for an alleged kick to Shibley’s side.
The case now enters the sentencing phase. The presiding judge, Visiting Judge Robert Duper of Pinal County, told the jurors they must now determine the aggravating factors in the case. He said the prosecutors must prove these circumstances beyond a reasonable doubt. He said they must start with the assumption aggravating factors have not been proven.
Freeman was indicted on 10 felony counts on Oct. 20, 2017. A plea agreement was reached in late 2018, but the original judge on the case, former La Paz County Superior Court Judge Matthew Newman, said he would not accept it. After Newman left the bench, he was replaced by Duper due to a conflict with the new Superior Court Judge, Jessica Quickle. Duper informed the attorneys, Matthew Frame for the defense and Rachel Shackleford for the state, that he would not accept the plea agreement rejected by Newman.
In March 2019, Freeman declared he was rejecting all plea agreements and wanted to go to trial.
Prior to trial, on Aug. 16, Frame filed a motion to have five of the charges dismissed on the grounds that
Shibley died in California and Arizona did not have jurisdiction. He noted Shibley went swimming in her family’s pool after they returned home, and medical attention not sought for five hours after they returned home.
In response, prosecutors said medical experts concluded it was the ruptured stomach that caused Shibley’s death, and the action that caused that injury happened in Arizona. They said this gave Arizona jurisdiction.
Duper denied the motion Sept. 3.
Freeman is being held without bound in the La Paz County Jail. Judgement and sentencing are schedule for 10 a.m. Nov. 26 in La Paz County Superior Court.