Breaking News Blog

Monday, Dec 02 2013 05:01 PM

Defendant pleads not guilty to murder of 2-year-old

By BREAKING NEWS BLOG

Before he could plead not guilty to murdering his girlfriend's child, Mathew Berry first had to listen to the child's grandmother repeatedly curse him before being escorted from the courtroom by deputies.

"(He) is gonna die in hell," Carol Roberson shouted as she was led into the hallway.

Berry, 26, was arrested Nov. 20 after being found with the dead body of 2-year-old Pharaoh Van Vactor. The coroner's office determined Pharoah died of blunt force trauma, and prosecutors charged Berry with murder and assault on a child under 8 resulting in death.

He pleaded not guilty to those charges Monday. Judge Michael Lewis ordered him held without bail and scheduled a preliminary hearing for Feb. 11.

Prosecutor David Zulfa said no decision has been made as to whether the death penalty will be sought.

A bus driver came upon Pharaoh and Berry beside a road outside California City. The driver realized the child was dead after the two boarded the bus, and alerted authorities.

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