(Reuters) - A South Dakota jury on Tuesday began deliberating the fate of a Sioux Falls man accused of killing the 2-year-old son of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in 2013.
Joseph Patterson, 29, faces a mandatory life sentence if convicted of second-degree murder in the death of Tyrese Ruffin, who was the son of his then girlfriend and Peterson.
South Dakota Assistant Attorney General Laura Shattuck told jurors in closing arguments that Ruffin suffered four blows to the head while in Patterson’s care and died from brain hemorrhaging, the Argus Leader newspaper reported.
Defense attorney Tim Rensch has argued that the swelling in Ruffin’s brain was the result of choking on a fruit snack while Patterson was in another room, according to local media reports.
Police had said they were called to a Sioux Falls apartment in October 2013 because Patterson reported that he found Ruffin slumped over and unresponsive. Doctors determined that Ruffin’s injuries were consistent with abuse, police said.
Ruffin died two days later, police said.
Peterson, the National Football League’s most valuable player in 2012, told reporters he had learned about Ruffin only two months before the incident and had been preparing to provide financial assistance to his son and the child’s mother.
The running back, who did not attend the trial, met Ruffin for the first time at a hospital shortly before his death.
Peterson sat out all but one game last season for the Vikings after he was suspended following child abuse charges involving his 4-year-old son in Texas. He pleaded no contest to misdemeanor assault and was released from probation in July.
Reporting by Lisa Maria Garza in Dallas; Editing by David Bailey and Peter Cooney