SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — A South Dakota man accused in the death of the young son of Vikings running back Adrian Peterson has been indicted on second-degree murder and manslaughter charges, prosecutors said Monday.
Joseph Robert Patterson, 27, is expected to be arraigned later this week in the death of 2-year-old Tyrese Robert Ruffin, who died two days after being hospitalized with severe head injuries. Investigators allege that Patterson, the boyfriend of the child's mother, assaulted Tyrese on Oct. 9 while the two were alone in a Sioux Falls apartment.
Patterson was indicted by a grand jury on Friday, Lincoln County state's attorney Tom Wollman said. He was initially jailed on charges of aggravated assault and aggravated battery, though prosecutors pursued more serious charges after the boy's death.
A second-degree murder conviction carries a mandatory life sentence, while first-degree manslaughter carries a maximum sentence of life in prison.
The charges accuse Patterson of intentionally or recklessly injuring Tyrese by causing brain damage or bleeding of the skull, from blows, shaking or making the boy's head hit an object or surface.
Patterson's attorney, Tim Rensch, said his client is “absolutely and totally not guilty.” Rensch said he could not yet discuss the case in detail because he hadn't received all of the paperwork.
Peterson, who has said he found out the boy was his son only about two months ago, had been working with Tyrese's mother to arrange a meeting with the boy when he received a call that the child was hospitalized with severe injuries. Peterson said he raced to South Dakota and saw Tyrese for the first time a day before he died.
Peterson returned to Sioux Falls on Wednesday to attend Tyrese's funeral.
Lincoln County court records show a July 2012 protection order was taken out against Patterson, in which he had to stay 1,000 feet away from a former girlfriend, their son and her two other boys for five years.
The woman told the court that Patterson spanked her 3-year-old son's bare bottom until it had welts after hearing the boy acted up at church. The woman asked the court to drop the protection order two months later, saying she wanted their son to be raised by both his mother and father.
Prosecutors also are asking a judge to withdraw a suspended sentence Patterson received for a 2012 domestic assault conviction, saying he violated the deal that required him to show no violent, threatening or assaultive behavior for three years. A hearing on that motion is scheduled for Oct. 30.