Woman pleads guilty to a reduced charge in toddler's bludgeoning death

The woman accused of second-degree murder in the 2007 death of one of her boyfriend's children entered a guilty plea to a reduced charge Wednesday and will testify against the father next spring.

Brandi Lea Reeves, 24, pleaded guilty to one count of child abuse resulting in substantial bodily harm in the July 10, 2007, bludgeoning death of 33-month-old Zander Martino.

Police believe the toddler's father, Richard Todd Martino, 27, killed the boy with a hammer less than three weeks after Child Protective Services in Las Vegas returned Zander and two other siblings to the downtown home Martino shared with Reeves.

"I knew things were going on with Richard abusing Zander, and I did nothing," Reeves told District Judge David Wall in explaining her role in the death.

"I saw him get too aggressive," said Reeves who, along with Martino, has been in custody since the day of the boy's death. "I saw choke marks and small bruises all over. I saw him throw things (at Zander). I should have gone to the authorities about it, but I didn't."

Prosecutor Vickie Monroe said the plea calls for Reeves to testify against Martino.

Defense attorney Patti Erickson said her client agreed to plead guilty because she did not call for help, but neither did she commit the deadly abuse. Reeves' original charges included second-degree murder, which carries a term of 10 years to life in prison. She faces two to 20 years when Wall sentences her March 17. There is a very slight chance she could receive probation if a psychiatrist finds there is a low risk she will reoffend. Erickson said Reeves understands she's probably headed to prison.

Following the hearing, Erickson said her client was pregnant while the abuse of Zander occurred. She said she was afraid of Martino, whom she characterized as "very controlling and manipulative." Reeves, she said, gave birth 18 days prior to Zander's death. That child has since been adopted.

Child Protective Services had custody of Zander and his siblings, said Erickson, but returned them to Martino on June 19, 2007, roughly three weeks before he was killed by a heavy blow or blows to the abdomen.

"They (CPS) decided Zander's bruises weren't that big a deal," Erickson said after the hearing.

Two other children are in foster care.

Martino's murder trial, initially scheduled to begin Tuesday, was postponed to March 1.

Wall said Reeves would be sentenced later that month even if the trial is again postponed. Erickson said it was her hope sentencing would be delayed until after her client testifies, as doing so could mitigate any sentence.

Contact Doug McMurdo at dmcmurdo@reviewjournal. com or 702-380-8135.