A Waterford man accused of murder pleaded guilty Tuesday to a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter in the drowning of his girlfriend’s 18-month-old daughter six years ago.
Jacob Daniel Franklin agreed to a plea deal on the same day his trial was scheduled to start with jury selection. On May 2, he will be sentenced to 11 years in prison for the child’s death.
Franklin was baby-sitting the child and her older brother Feb. 16, 2008. Authorities responded to a medical call at the home in the 400 block of North Western Avenue in Waterford. Stanislaus County sheriff’s officials have said the toddler was left unattended in a bathtub and drowned.
Tuesday morning, Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Linda McFadden told the defendant that he must serve at least 85 percent of his sentence before he will be eligible for parole.
The judge said the child’s family will have an opportunity to speak in court about the impact of the girl’s death before Franklin is formally sentenced.
During the May 2 hearing, Franklin will have to make a statement, telling the judge what occurred at the Waterford home that led to the girl’s death. The defendant’s formal statement was part of the agreement he made with prosecutors.
Before the plea deal, Franklin faced charges of child abuse causing death and second-degree murder. Had he been convicted of those charges, he would have faced a maximum sentence of 25 years to life in prison. In exchange for his guilty plea, prosecutors dropped the murder and child abuse charges.
Franklin, 31, has been in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail since April 15, 2008. He initially was arrested shortly after the Feb. 16, 2008, incident on suspicion of willful harm to a child. He bailed out of jail soon after.
Two months later, Franklin returned to jail after prosecutors increased the criminal charges after an autopsy that revealed injuries indicating abuse, according to authorities.