A father charged in the death of his infant son found buried in the backyard of his Hallandale Beach home pleaded no contest to three counts of giving false information to law enforcement Wednesday.
Jury selection was scheduled to begin Wednesday in the trial of Calvin Melvin, who had been charged with child neglect in the death of his six-month-old son, Dontrell Melvin.
The child neglect charge was dropped. Melvin is due back in court on Sept. 18 for sentencing. He's facing a maximum of 15 years in prison.
Melvin didn't speak after Wednesday's hearing but his defense attorney said he will file an appeal.
"They're treating it like a murder case, as if they had a good murder case against him and he was a bad guy who killed somebody," attorney Ed Hoeg said. "He's not a bad guy and he didn't kill anybody."
Prosecutor Stacey Honowitz said the lesser charges are no relief for Melvin.
"There's a dead child, there's no victory in any of that," Honowitz said. "It's very disheartening. I'm glad he plead to this but there's still a dead child, so there's no good that can come out."
The baby's body was discovered in a shallow grave in the backyard of 106 Northwest 1st Avenue on Jan. 11, 2013, about 18 months after he was last seen.
Interrogation tapes released in February of Melvin and the child's mother, Brittney Sierra, portray a violent and abusive man with an alleged drinking problem. Melvin, however, describes Sierra as the aggressive one. Both accuse the other of repeated acts of violence.
Hallandale Police say that four years of detective work in 25 pages of police reports reveal how Melvin and Sierra allegedly tried to pin their son's death on each other.
The police reports, which are now in the hands of the State Attorney's Office, allege Melvin first lied about where Dontrell was in January of 2013, but then drew a diagram of the backyard to show where Dontrell was buried.
"He made those statements, he doesn't dispute that," Hoeg said. "They were not true. He made them at the time because he was under the influence of this, you know, the girl that he was in love with."
Sierra reportedly told police "Calvin might have used a pillow to kill Dontrell," saying he "could have suffocated the baby."
Both parents were charged with child neglect at the time because no one called for help. The charges against Sierra were dropped earlier this year.
"To me, I feel I know what happened. I believe Calvin didn't do anything to harm the baby from the evidence I've seen," Hoeg said. "If it's fair, he'll get probation."
The couple has a history of domestic violence, including seven documented domestic violence incidents between 2010-2013. The cases were never tried because Sierra did not cooperate with officials.