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Hibbing man pleads guilty in death of stepson

A Hibbing man pleaded guilty today to first-degree manslaughter in the death of his one-year-old stepson.

Joseph Thomas Ricketts III, 30, entered the plea in district court in Hibbing. Judge David Ackerson scheduled sentencing for Feb. 20.

Ricketts has been jailed since his Jan. 28 arrest. He was charged with unintentional second-degree murder while committing or attempting to commit malicious punishment of a child and first-degree manslaughter.

St. Louis County Medical Examiner Dr. Thomas Uncini determined that Aiden Richard Parks died on Jan. 27 of blunt force trauma to his abdomen.

Ricketts told a Hibbing police investigator that his stepson vomited while he was playing "airplane" with him the day of his death. He said the boy vomited again when he was rocking him. He then put the boy in the crib and left the room between 1:30 and 1:45 p.m. Ricketts ' mother then came to the residence and noticed the boy wasn't breathing. She called 911.

When police arrived they found the boy limp and unresponsive in Ricketts' mother's arms. The defendant was outside the residence throwing up in the snow.

Uncini concluded that the child died as a result of a blunt-force trauma to the abdomen causing two veins to be lacerated, resulting in extensive bleeding. He said the blow to the boy's abdomen forced the veins to hit the spinal cord, and he wouldn't have lived long after the injury.

"When (Ricketts) entered the guilty plea, he stated that didn't remember the entire incident because he was on drugs," St. Louis County Attorney Melanie Ford said.