A Cocke County man charged with killing his 6-month-old son in December 2018 entered guilty pleas on Tuesday in Cocke County Circuit Court.
Kasey Rathbone Sr., 24, High Point Way, Newport, pleaded guilty to charges of first-degree felony murder in perpetration of a crime (child abuse) and aggravated child abuse, neglect and endangerment.
Judge Carter Moore imposed a life sentence with the possibility of parole on the murder charge, and a concurrent 25-year sentence in the child abuse charge. Under current Tennessee law, Rathbone will be eligible for parole after he serves 51 years in prison.
Rathbone was represented by Assistant Public Defender Keith Haas.
Fourth Judicial District Attorney General James Dunn told the court the victim, Kasey Rathbone Jr., was taken to the Newport Medical Center on Dec. 14 with difficulty breathing. He said the infant had bruises all over his body, brain trauma and fractured ribs. The child was sent to the East Tennessee Children’s Hospital where he died two days later.
TBI Agent Michael O’Keefe determined that the defendant was caring for his son while the child’s mother was at work.
Rathbone initially said the child had suffered two seizures and had difficulty breathing, but he did not seek medical assistance until the mother arrived home from work. The defendant later changed his story, telling investigators that he tripped and fell and struck the baby’s head on a bed railing.
But the prosecutor told Moore that the defendant gave different statements regarding the injuries to the infant.
Dunn said he was prepared to call several witnesses in the case.
He said Rathbone told Chief Deputy Coy Phillips of the Madison County Sheriff’s Department in North Carolina he had become angry and threw the child saying “he lost his cool and flipped out,” and then struck the victim.
Dunn said Rathbone was playing video games on his Xbox when the child became “fussy.” The defendant became angry and inflicted the lethal blows leading to the death of the infant.
The prosecutor said the victim’s uncle, David Allen Grooms Jr., who lived next door, was prepared to testify that on the date of the incident, he heard Rathbone yelling “shut up” or “that’s enough,” along with a slapping sound.
Dunn said the defendant was the only individual who was with the victim during the time frame in which the lethal blows were inflicted.
In addition, Children’s Hospital medical personnel would have testified as to the extensive injuries the infant sustained prior to being taken to the hospital. Dunn said the autopsy found that the victim died as the result of multiple blunt force injuries to the head, and “injuries too numerous to count.”
Dunn thanked Detective Bob Schaff of the Cocke County Sheriff’s Department and Special Agent Michael O’Keefe of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation “for their very thorough investigation in this case”.