by Heidi L. Everett
On Feb. 19, James Joseph Robert Wood, formerly of St. Joseph, was convicted of second-degree murder without intent and sentenced in Sherburne and Benton county courts for killing two children in separate incidents.
In Sherburne County, Wood was convicted for killing 2-year-old Billy Chapman in 2015 in St. Cloud. Wood was watching Chapman and two brothers while their mother worked. Wood was sentenced to 18 years for this murder.
In Benton County, Wood was convicted for killing 7-month-old Noah Belgarde in Rice in 2018. Wood was staying with Belgarde’s mother, who had put the child to bed for the night. In the morning Belgarde was dead, and Wood was gone. Wood was sentenced to 25 years for this murder.
Both boys died from complications resulting from traumatic brain injury.
On Dec. 1, 2020, Wood submitted an Alford Plea, which is a guilty plea of a defendant who claims to be innocent but admits the prosecution has enough evidence to prove he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Typically, it results in a guilty plea of a lesser crime. In this case, second-degree murder without intent.
Sentences will run concurrently.