Dad pleads guilty to manslaughter in death of toddler found in woods

David Creato, left, and son Brendan

CBS Philly

CAMDEN, N.J. -- A New Jersey man accused of killing his 3-year-old son because the boy had become an impediment to his relationship with a teenage girlfriend pleaded guilty Wednesday to aggravated manslaughter. 

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David Creato Jr.'s plea came just weeks before he was due to stand trial again on murder charges. His first trial ended in a mistrial in May. He admitted in court Wednesday that he "recklessly caused his son's death under circumstances manifesting extreme indifference to the value of human life by depriving Brendan of oxygen."

Camden County prosecutors will recommend he receive a 10-year prison term when he's sentenced Sept. 29.

Prosecutors have said Creato killed his son, Brendan Creato, because he feared his then-17-year-old girlfriend, who was away at college, was going to leave him. She had made it clear she didn't want to be around his child and wanted him to give up custody.

The girlfriend was never charged and the couple has since broken up.

Creato, 23, known as D.J., had maintained that his son wandered away from his Haddon Township home in October 2015. Creato called 911 around 6 a.m. to report his son missing. The boy's pajama-clad body was found hours later in a wooded area by the Cooper River, about a mile from the home.

During the murder trial, which ended in a mistrial in May, Camden County prosecutors said the boy's neon green socks were clean, which would be impossible if he had wandered away from home.

A medical examiner had testified Brendan died from "homicidal violence" but couldn't determine where or when he died.