MINNEAPOLIS — A 24-year-old man pleaded guilty Tuesday to throwing a 5-year-old off a balcony at the Mall of America last month.
The boy survived but, according to a GoFundMe page, faces a long recovery after the 40 foot fall.
Emmanuel Aranda pleaded guilty to one count of attempted premeditated murder. He faces a sentence of 19 years in prison, which is on the upper end of the sentencing guidelines.
Wearing an orange prison jumpsuit, Aranda answered questions about the horrifying attack. His attorney asked, “You spotted a child and you decided you were going to kill him?” Aranda answered “Yes,” in a calm soft voice.
The prosecutor asked him, “When you picked up the child you didn’t just drop him, you threw him over the railing?” Again, the answer was affirmative.
After the plea, Aranda’s mother told reporters her son is mentally ill and does not belong in prison.
“He is in denial about what has taken place. He needs help, he seriously needs help, he has no idea what he is doing right now,” Becky Aranda said.
Prosecutors say it was clear from the questioning at today’s hearing that Emmanuel Aranda understood what he had done.
“I think it’s a good result,” Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Cheri Townsend said. “The family then will have resolution of the case fairly quickly and they can focus on where they are focused, the healing of their child.”
Emmanuel Aranda’s defense attorney said he wanted to plead guilty.
“The state made a reasonable offer and he wanted to accept responsibility,” public defender Paul Sellers said.
The GoFundMe page set up for the victim, 5-year-old Landen, has collected more than $1 million for his care from more than 28,000 people.
The family’s latest update said they would not be commenting on any court proceedings and that “the child continues to heal and the family asks for continued prayers and privacy.” A previous update said the child faces “many surgeries ahead” and that the GoFundMe will “help cover the immense medical costs and rehabilitation costs.”
Landen’s family was told about the guilty plea and the 19-year sentence and signed off on both. With time for good behavior, Emmanuel Aranda could be released from prison in just 12 years. His sentencing is set for June 3.