The man accused in the shaken baby death of a 2-year-old Tilton girl pleaded guilty Tuesday to a reduced charge.

Ryan Allhands, 24, of Tilton had faced first-degree murder charges in the July 2006 death of toddler Reagan Williams.

On Tuesday, he entered a guilty plea to a reduced charge of involuntary manslaughter, a Class 2 felony, as part of an agreement with the state’s attorney’s office.

As many as 20 people — many family members of Williams — attended the afternoon hearing before Presiding Judge Michael Clary. Several family members lowered their heads as the charge of involuntary manslaughter was read by Clary. Others wiped away tears throughout the hearing.

Vermilion County State’s Attorney Randy Brinegar said the charge labels the death as unintended, “no matter how repulsive, disgusting or sad it is.”

Because of special penalties filed with the new charge, Allhands is eligible for up to 14 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections. Brinegar said he plans to ask for the maximum sentence.

“Fourteen years is hardly enough for the loss of a young child’s life, no matter the circumstances,” he added.

Family members did not make themselves available for comment following the hearing, instead leaving out a side door of the Vermilion County Courthouse. The family later issued a statement via e-mail saying it seemed premature to comment.

“We do not celebrate today,” the e-mail read. “We still see this as a tragedy that could have been avoided.

“We miss our Sunshine,” the message ended.

The sentencing hearing for Allhands is scheduled for Dec. 21.

Assistant State’s Attorney Kavita Uppal worked with the family extensively in the latter stages of the case. She said the family was involved with decisions on how to proceed with the case, taking into account their feelings and concerns.

Brinegar said, to their credit, the family was understanding and accepting of the plea agreement once it became clear to them and Uppal that it would be difficult to prove first-degree murder in the case.

Allhands was the only adult watching Williams on July 2, 2006 — the day she died. The child’s mother, Tracy Green, was taking a shower at the time of the incident when Allhands told her the child was unresponsive. Emergency medical technicians called to the home said the child was not breathing.

Dr. Roland Kohr, a pathologist in Terre Haute, Ind., and Dr. Demetra Soter, a Chicago pediatrician, both told sheriff’s department investigators that Williams’ injuries were consistent with shaken baby syndrome. Soter went so far as to indicate the injuries would be the result of a strong person.

Recommended for you