A Forsyth County man convicted of beating a 6-year-old autistic child to death will spend the rest of his life in prison.
Eder Acosta was sentenced Friday morning by Superior Court Chief Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley to serve life in prison for the death of Bryan Guzman-Moreno and 20 concurrent years for cruelty to a child in the first degree.
“I don’t understand how any person could treat a child, one of the most vulnerable persons, with such cruelty … there’s no telling what pain and suffering this child endured at your hands,” Bagley said during the sentencing.
“It’s one of the most cruel and despicable acts that I’ve ever heard of … May God have mercy on you.”
Prior to sentencing, Guzman-Moreno’s mother, Laura Moreno, spoke briefly in court through an interpreter, saying life without her son has been challenging.
“I just want justice and I want [Acosta] to go to jail for his entire life,” she said. “I just want him to pay for what he did to my son.”
Acosta’s mother, Francisca, also spoke through an interpreter, pleading with Bagley to have compassion.
“Only God and I know my son is not guilty,” she said. “My heart tells me that Eder did not do this.
“I don’t want this to end here. I want my son to appeal this and find the true people who did this to Bryan.”
Francisca Acosta noted she did not have the opportunity during the trial to defend her son. She indicated she knew of many witnesses who could attest to his innocence, including some she said are too afraid to talk.
Acosta, who did not speak on his behalf, cried while his mother addressed the judge.
But Chief Assistant District Attorney Sandra Partridge didn’t believe his emotion.
“The tears he sheds today are for no one but himself,” she said. “This evidence was overwhelming in this case.”
Partridge said both Moreno and Francisca lost their sons as a result of the incident on July 16, 2009, when Acosta reportedly punched the young boy in the head, stomach and testicles, causing his death.
Acosta lived with Laura Moreno at the time, as did her two brothers and three children, which also included another son, Jose, and a child she had with Acosta.
During the trial, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Scalia contended that Acosta had often abused the boy.
She said that abuse escalated to a fatal beating early on that morning nearly three years ago after Acosta returned from driving Laura Moreno to work.
Acosta’s attorney, Michael Saul, argued during the trial that his client was not guilty of the charges, instead pointing to one of Moreno’s brothers, who were also there the morning of the incident.
During sentencing, Saul asked Bagley to consider that Acosta had no intent to commit a murder and was only 20 at the time.
“A life sentence will be potentially a very, very, long, long time,” he said. “We’re asking that he be eligible for parole.”
It was his age that led Partridge to suggest Acosta serve 20 years on top of his life sentence, instead of consecutively.
Saul said Acosta plans to appeal the case.
If he were to lose the appeal, Acosta would not be eligible for parole for 30 years, Partridge said after the sentencing.