Man admits pattern with plea in fatal abuse case

Owen Reak

Justin Keel

A plea agreement struck today calls for a prison sentence of 24 to 36 years for a man charged in the beating death of a toddler boy.

Justin Keel, 26, pleaded guilty to a single count of child abuse resulting in death in connection with the slaying of 19-month-old Owen Reak, who died April 11 after suffering repeated blows to the stomach. Keel will avoid a potential life sentence as a result of the plea. The District Attorney’s office dismissed a first-degree murder charge.

With today’s guilty plea, Keel admitted to inflicting a pattern of abuse against Owen starting March 1 of this year and continuing through April 11.

Amber Reak, Owen’s mother, told investigators she was showering the morning of April 10 when she heard a pair of “booms,” emerged from the shower and saw Keel holding her son, an arrest affidavit said. Keel explained Owen was “fussy” after falling off the bed.

Keel denied hurting the boy and eventually said his dog, a boxer named “Rusty,” may have hurt him.

An autopsy showed Owen bled to death internally and suffered repeated blows to the stomach.

Owen was fatally injured just weeks after social workers opened another case involving the boy. The Mesa County Department of Human Services opened an investigation March 22 after Owen suffered a leg fracture while in the care of Justin Keel, while Amber Reak was working.

Keel today was ordered held without bond at the Mesa County Jail. He’ll be sentenced Feb. 15 by District Judge Valerie Robison.

Read the full story in Wednesday’s Daily Sentinel.


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