Case of man accused of killing 3-year-old daughter continued

January 5, 2019

PARKER — The case of a California man accused of abuse that led to the death of his three-year-old daughter has been continued until 1 p.m Jan. 25 in La Paz County Superior Court.

Aaron Freeman, 26, is accused of multiple felonies in the death of his daughter, Autumn Shibley, on June 10, 2017 in Ehrenberg. Freeman was arrested Sept. 28, 2017.

Judge Robert Duber, a conflict judge from Pinal County, told attorneys for the State and the defense that he wants lists of witnesses still to be interviewed and schedules of when those interviews will take place. He also wants to know if a plea deal is being considered. Finally, he wants some idea of when a trial date can be set if there is no plea agreement.

Duber said he wanted this case to move forward.

“Every time I see you, I want a meaningful hearing,” he said.

A plea agreement offer in the case was taken “off the table” when the previous judge on the case, Matthew Newman, informed attorneys that he believed it was inappropriate and he would not accept it. Duber said in court Jan. 3 that he would not accept the same plea agreement offer that had been rejected by Newman.

Deputy La Paz County Attorney Rachel Shackelford said an earlier plea agreement had been brought back. She added it would be much harsher on Freeman.

Defense Attorney Michael Frame said he was surprised earlier that day when Freeman told him he wanted a new attorney.

Freeman said he was not happy with how Frame had represented him.

Duper said he couldn’t see a legal reason why Freeman needed a new attorney. Duper urged Freeman to file papers with the court explaining why he felt he needed a new attorney. He said a hearing could be held with Frame present with another judge, who could then make a ruling. He noted that, by meeting with another judge and not having the prosecutor present, they could be frank and open about their thoughts regarding the case.

“Basically, it’s like being in a marriage,” Duper said to Freeman of this relationship with his attorney. “You can’t get out of it without going to counseling.”

As for a plea agreement, Duper told Freeman it might be tempting to go to trial, but added he knew people who had been convicted at trial who regretted not taking a plea agreement.

Frame said Freeman needed time to consider all that had been discussed at the Jan. 3 hearing and asked for a continuance. The Jan. 25 date was agreed on by both attorneys. Duper told the attorneys what he wanted them to have ready by that date.

Freeman is charged with first degree murder, second degree murder-extreme indifference, and intentional abuse of a child or vulnerable adult. On June 10, 2017, he was at a tire shop in Ehrenberg, Ariz. when he allegedly abused Shibley, which caused injuries that led to her death. She died the following day at Loma Linda Children’s Hospital.

Freeman was indicted on 10 felony counts on Oct. 20, 2017. He was arraigned Oct. 30, 2017. He is being held on $1 million bond.

If convicted of all charges against him, Freeman faces a sentence of life in prison.

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