Death row inmate walks out of jail a free man after pleading guilty to child's death
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Featured Image Credit: Hamilton County Sherriff's Dept/9News
**Warning: Contents references to sexual assault**
A man who spent more than 15 years on death row has been freed after pleading guilty for the death of a child.
Lamont Hunter, 54, officially became a free man on Thursday (15 June), 17 years after the death of three-year-old Trustin Blue in Ohio.
Authorities said Trustin had been sexually assaulted by Hunter, and that he had died from blunt impact and shaking injuries to his head.
Hunter, meanwhile, claimed that Trustin's death was an accident, saying the young boy had fallen down the stairs while he did laundry.
He was originally convicted of aggravated murder, child endangerment and rape, and was sentenced to death.
Hunter spent his next years on death row, but he received a second chance after the coroner reviewed more than 700 pages of records from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
The pages included evidence the coroner hadn't been given in his initial trial, and after considering the new information, Trustin's cause of death was changed from homicide to 'undetermined'.
The coroner's updated report also revealed that the injuries which had been attributed to sexual assault were actually inflicted by accident at the hospital as they attempted to insert a thermometer into Trustin's body.
The findings meant Hunter was eligible for a new trial, but instead of going through the court proceedings, he agreed to plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter and child endangerment.
A statement from the Hamilton County Prosecutor's Office clarified that Hunter's plea deal means he'd admitted to causing a child's death.
"Today, Hunter walked into a courtroom and admitted that he caused the death of Trustin," the statement said.
"There is no doubt what kind of man Lamont Hunter is. However, with the confusion caused by the coroner's change in opinion, this plea was in the best interest of justice."
Trustin's mother appeared to accept the new information in a letter read in court by Hunter's defense team, saying: "[Trustin] served his purpose on this earth. I donated his organs and his heart.
"Time is unforgettable. It can never go backward, only forward. I was 30 years old. Our daughter was 8 months old. She is now 18 years old and about to graduate high school. She deserves her dad. She deserves her dad to be there for her now."
Trustin's grandfather, however, still believes Hunter is guilty of murder and sexual assault.
After he plead guilty, a judge sentenced Hunter to time served, meaning he was able to leave prison behind and return to the outside world.
Speaking to WCBO 9 Cincinnati, Hunter said: "I'm happy to be able to get back to the business of living my life with my children and starting from here and moving forward. Just, all the emotions, that's how I'm feeling."
One of Hunter's attorneys, Erin Barnhart, said Hunter 'never harmed Trustin'.