A Fort Benning soldier first charged with murder pleaded guilty Tuesday to voluntary manslaughter in the death of his 5-year-old stepson.
Ryan F. Archer, 34, admitted to the June 4, 2007, slaying of Zechariah Schuman before Muscogee County Superior Court Judge Frank Jordan Jr. The judge sentenced Archer to 30 years in prison, followed by 10 on probation, on charges of voluntary manslaughter and aggravated battery, said Assistant District Attorney LaRae Moore.
"I feel like he intentionally slammed his head down or slammed him into something," Moore said. "I'm pleased about the sentence."
Archer had been watching Zechariah and the child's 6-year-old sister at 5619 Col. Dick McKee Drive around noon that day when he became upset with the child, Moore said. At some point, Zechariah received injuries that couldn't have been inflicted by himself, Moore said.
"There was evidence of other injuries to the child," she added.
Kathryn Rhodes, who represents Archer, called the incident tragic. Her client had served in Afghanistan twice and volunteered to go to Iraq.
"I don't know what happened that day, but I did see the evidence and Mr. Archer saw the evidence. It's just a very tragic, tragic event."
Archer initially faced charges of murder, first-degree cruelty to children, aggravated battery and battery with substantial visible harm. He only pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter and aggravated battery; the rest were dropped.
Archer's wife at the time, Melinda Archer, still faces charges of battery with substantial visible harm and two counts of first-degree cruelty to children.
Both Archers were stationed at Fort Benning.