Larry Atwell was not a fugitive, his lawyer insisted Thursday, as the man accused of fatally injury a 1-year-old in his care pleaded not guilty.
Atwell, 44, was indicted June 28 in the death of Cory Sechtin, who suffered a head injury at the man’s Egg Harbor Township home. The boy died three days later.
“Mr. Atwell first learned of this indictment and I first learned of this indictment when it was on The Press online,” attorney John Zarych told Superior Court Judge Bernard DeLury during a brief court hearing Thursday afternoon.
The Press of Atlantic City first reported the indictment online Wednesday.
“There wasn’t a valid warrant until (then),” Zarych said, citing problems with a previous warrant.
On Sept. 5, 2010, Atwell was taking care of Cory alone because his wife — who normally baby-sat — was sick, said Cory’s mother, Molly Morton.
He told emergency responders that the boy had fallen head-first after climbing a 5-foot-high slide.
The cause of death was eventually ruled a homicide, but a case against Atwell was not started until this past February, court records show.
Last month, he was indicted on charges of aggravated manslaughter, manslaughter and endangering the welfare of a child.
Atwell was taken into custody after the hearing. His bail is set at $350,000, which Atwell was not expected to be able to pay.
Sechtin’s mother was glad to hear the man she has long believed killed her child is in custody.
“I know there is a long road ahead and this is just the beginning, but we are hoping and praying for an outcome that finds justice for Cory,” Morton said.
A status hearing is set for Aug. 2. At that time, Zarych is expected to argue for a lower bail.
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