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McKenzie pleads guilty to manslaughter in infant’s death

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CANTON — A former Fort Drum soldier will be going to prison for more than 20 years for killing his ex-fiancee’s infant after he accepted a plea deal Tuesday in St. Lawrence County Court.

Gary L. McKenzie II, 22, of 154 Hailesboro St., Apt. 26, Gouverneur, pleaded guilty to one count of first-degree manslaughter, a class B violent felony.

The plea satisfied all charges against him. He will be sentenced Aug. 11 to a determinate 21 years in prison.

McKenzie originally was charged with second-degree murder, second-degree manslaughter, reckless assault of a child and third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, all felonies, and misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child.

Following his plea, County Judge Jerome J. Richards placed McKenzie under oath and asked him to confirm the events that led to the July 16 death of 7-month-old Braylin W. Chambers.

McKenzie stood beside his attorney, Public Defender Stephen D. Button, his head hanging, his hands gripping the back of the chair in front of him and listened to the details.

“You were baby sitting Braylin Chambers and became frustrated with the child?” Judge Richards asked. “And as a result you threw the child in a bouncy seat where then the child struck his head against a wall, recklessly causing his death?”

The impact, which occurred at 1:39 that morning, caused an inoperable brain injury and hemorrhaging and resulted in the child’s death.

McKenzie repeated, “Yes, your honor,” with long pauses before his responses.

Mr. Button said although his client had avoided trial and a possible life sentence, he was not pleased with the outcome of the case.

“How can you be pleased with a situation in which an individual is dead and another, a soldier, is going to be incarcerated for a long period of time?” Mr. Button said. “This was severely difficult for the victim’s family, my client and my client’s family. It’s a sad day for everyone involved.”

District Attorney Mary E. Rain said the reduction from a murder charge to a manslaughter charge as a part of the plea deal would guarantee that he be held responsible for the child’s death.

“With any case where there is a trial, a jury can be fickle,” Ms. Rain said. “Here you have surety. He is receiving almost what he would have received if he was convicted of second-degree murder.”

Judge Richards has previously denied two motions requesting to have the murder charges against McKenzie dismissed. In both denials, the judge wrote there was evidence that was “legally sufficient to support each of the charged crimes,” specifically the murder charge.

If convicted of the original murder charge, McKenzie would have faced a minimum sentence of 15 to life or a maximum of 25 to life.

The district attorney said McKenzie “had a history” that showed a pattern of violent behavior.

Ms. Rain said during the investigation it was learned that McKenzie previously had attempted to assault his biological child, and when the child’s mother tried to stop him, McKenzie bit her.

“There were also bite marks found on Braylin,” Ms. Rain said. “He had been in counseling for anxiety issues sometime in May 2013, and before, while he was in the military.”

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