The child "is recovering, and his spirit is strong -- but there is still a long road ahead," says his family
A man sentenced to 19 years in prison for the attempted premeditated murder of a 5-year-old boy he threw off a third-floor Mall of America balcony heard Monday from the boy’s parents, who forgave him even as the boy’s father decried his “evil and selfish” act.
“You chose to listen to the worst parts of yourself that day,” said a statement from the father, read by Assistant Hennepin County Attorney Cheri Townsend and obtained by PEOPLE. “You chose evil over good and and chose to take your hate and your hurt out on my precious boy.”
The statement from the mother read, in part: “God will judge you someday and I have peace with that. I hand it off to him and you will take none of my thoughts EVER again, I am done with you.”
Emmanuel Deshawn Aranda, 24, previously admitted he knew that throwing the boy off the balcony at the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, could kill the child. He averted a trial by pleading guilty last month.
The 19-year prison sentence handed down Monday by Judge Jeannice Reding was part of a plea agreement reached with prosecutors.
Asked at the sentencing if he wished to say anything, Aranda declined, reports Minneapolis TV station WCCO.
His mother, Becky Aranda, told reporters afterward that her son had battled mental illness from the age of 3, according to the outlet.
Investigators said Aranda had gone to the mall “looking for someone to kill” and felt driven to aggression after being rejected by women he’d tried to speak with there, according to a criminal complaint obtained by PEOPLE.
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The child, identified by his family only by his first name, Landen, sustained severe head trauma and multiple broken bones in his arms and legs. The incident was witnessed by his horrified mother and others as they stood near the balcony outside of the Rainforest Café on the mall’s third floor.
Ten days ago, in the latest update on a still-active GoFundMe page that has raised more than $1 million in pledges for the boy’s family, his parents wrote: “Over the past several weeks, our son has suffered from non-life threatening complications from his injuries which have required additional procedures to correct. He is recovering, and his spirit is strong — but there is still a long road ahead.”
The father’s statement to Aranda in court Monday said: “On what was a normal day for us, a day of fun and playing, a day meant for good, you chose to commit a horrific violent act, an act intended … to kill and destroy.”
While saying “I wish you could experience the pain and suffering you inflicted on my boy,” the father added, in part: “I do want you to know that I forgive you, because it is what God calls me to do and holding hate only harms me.”
Aranda’s public defender previously told KSTP that Aranda accepted “full responsibility” for his actions.