Maryland man sentenced to 15 years in car seat beating

By Dan Morse

Cindy Harris was battered in her car seat in June 2015. Photo / Washington Post, family picture
Cindy Harris was battered in her car seat in June 2015. Photo / Washington Post, family picture

Alone with a battered child strapped in the car seat, Julio More needed a cover story.

It was just after midnight, in a parking lot outside of Rockville, Maryland. The child was his girlfriend's daughter. He picked up his phone and called her.

A dark SUV, he told his girlfriend, had just cut him off. Three black guys got out. One had a stick.

The 26-year-old Silver Spring, Maryland, man stuck with that racially charged fiction over the next few hours - holding to it at the hospital, alone with the police and in text messages to his girlfriend sent to say how he tried to protect her 3-year-old girl.

"I jumped on top of her to cover her," he wrote. "That's when they hit my hand, then pulled me away from her ... If I find those guys, I would do the worst to them."

But those guys never existed.

It was More - sentenced to 15 years in prison for child abuse - who beat the child.

He punched her at least five times with his fist and at least five more times with his motorcycle helmet, according to court records. The girl survived the June 2015 attack, but suffered skull fractures, a temporary loss of breathing and permanent damage to small spots in her brain, court records state.

"One minute - one series of minutes, he completely loses it," More's lawyer, Andrew Jezic, said in court, trying to explain what had happened.

The case stood out for its explosive violence visited on the most defenseless of victims, a little girl locked into place in her car seat.

Prosecutors asserted that More tried to kill the child because his girlfriend, who was estranged from the child's father, wanted to spend more time with the little girl, and that meant less time with More.

Jezic said that More had been beaten badly as a child in Peru, which led to a series of suppressed emotions that exploded. More, who had been a longtime worker at a United Parcel Service warehouse, spoke briefly in court.

"I ask for forgiveness from the bottom of my heart," he said in a written statement to Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Sharon Burrell. "It is so hard to ask for it after what I have done."

The little girl, Cindy Harris, has since turned 4. She lives with her father, Chris Harris, in Pennsylvania.

"It's remarkable - she's absolutely amazing," Harris said by phone.

His daughter writes her name and can count past 20. "She's brilliant," he said.

But Harris said he worries about emotional damage. "Sometimes she'll have little nightmares."

He recently watched her playing with a young cousin and talking about "Johnny," the name she had for More.

" 'He is not a nice person. He is mean,' she told her cousin," Harris said. "Little kids - they shouldn't have to say that about a grown person."

More was born in Lima, immigrating at 11 to the United States under an asylum petition, and in high school considered trying to join the Marine Corps, according to Jezic. He instead got a job at UPS in a warehouse and a call center, Jezic said. He had a reputation for being calm at work and never showing anger, colleagues would later say in court.

More began dating Judith Harris in September 2014, according to court filings. The two had troubles that were exacerbated as she tried to spend more time with her daughter. More's mother also became ill, and his father lost his job near the same time,, Jezic said.

"Julio, rightly or wrongly, bore the weight of all these troubles immediately prior to the incident," Jezic wrote in documents filed with the court.

It was on June 22, 2015, that Judith Harris left her daughter with a babysitter, and went to her job at a restaurant.

Shortly before midnight, More picked up the girl and then was set to pick up his girlfriend from the restaurant. Enroute, he grew upset about the stress in his life and the possible misplacement of his motorcycle keys, according to a forensic psychologist who evaluated him, Michael Deem.

"All the frustration, all the anger, all the years of repressing, led to this horrific beating that he perpetrated," Deem would later say in court.

More's cover story to hide the child's beating was laced with racial overtones - the three men yelled at him for his Hispanic heritage and yelled at the little girl because they thought she was Hispanic, too, he said.

The story crumbled after More failed a polygraph test and then admitted to detectives that he alone had beaten the child, according to Montgomery County Assistant State's Attorney Ryan Wechsler.

"He said he didn't know why he did it," Wechsler said.

Chris Harris - Cindy's father - was in court when Burrell handed down the 15-year sentence. He appeared calm, but as he later said, he had opted not to speak in court for fear his words would go beyond courtroom decorum.

"It's time for him to sit and think about what he did," Harris said.

- Washington Post

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