RAVENNA — The man accused of killing a 1-year-old boy in October in Nelson Township has pleaded guilty to aggravated murder.

Nicholas Catazaro, 27, of 9924 Green Drive, Windham, now faces a potential sentence of life in prison with his first opportunity for parole at 25 years, according to a plea agreement made between Catazaro’s attorneys and the Portage County Prosecutor’s Office.

Catazaro pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated murder, an unclassified felony during a hearing on Tuesday. A sentencing hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. April 2 in Portage County Common Pleas Court.

His attorneys did not immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

Catazaro appeared to be fighting the allegations against him as recently as Friday. His attorneys, Anthony Koukoutas and Richard Drake, filed a motion on Friday claiming the way Catazaro was interrogated by the Portage County Sheriff’s Office was unjust.

In the court filing, Catazaro said he gave a statement to police while at the hospital. About 12 hours later, “the police tracked the defendant and phone (sic) him demanding that he come to the Portage County Jail.”

Catazaro said he had gotten only about three hours of sleep but went to the jail. He claimed he was at no time advised that he didn’t need to go to the jail or that he was free to leave, or that statements he made could be used against him or that he could consult with an attorney.

Catazaro said he also was in a locked room with video and audio cameras. He took a polygraph test while detectives were coming in and out, “mocking” his answers to questions.

The document says Catazaro was pulled over in a traffic stop a few minutes after he left the sheriff’s office.

“The ‘freedom to leave’ was altogether contrived so as to justify not giving the Miranda warnings and therefore subsequently claiming that the defendant was not ‘in custody,’” the court filing said. “However, a review of the lengthy videotapes leads to but one conclusion, i.e. that no sane person would have felt free to leave during the intense interrogation.”

On Oct. 5, Portage County sheriff’s deputies were called to a report of a 1-year-old boy, Léon Chehin-Merryman, who wasn’t breathing at 9882 Bayberry Lane, just north of Nelson Ledges Quarry Park, at about midnight.

The baby’s mother, Ashlyn Chehin, performed CPR on her son, who she said was in his crib when she found him unconscious. It took about 11 minutes for paramedics to arrive after she called 911.

Léon was later pronounced dead at University Hospitals.

Police said Catazaro killed Léon by throwing him against a wall.

Catazaro has been held in the Portage County Jail since October on a $1 million bond.

 

Contact reporter Eileen McClory at emcclory@recordpub.com or @Eileen_McClory.