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Minnesota man sentenced in murders of 2 children

James Joseph Robert Wood pleaded guilty to both crimes in December, and had two different sentencing hearings on Friday.
Credit: Sherburne County Jail
James Joseph Robert Wood

ST JOSEPH, Minn. — A Minnesota man was sentenced Friday for two murders, both of which had child victims.

The first criminal complaint filed in Benton County District Court charged James Joseph Robert Wood, 31, with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of first-degree manslaughter.

In that complaint, prosecutors say a woman called 911 the morning of Oct. 13, 2018, saying her 7-month-old child was dead. When deputies arrived at the home in Watab Township, Benton County, she told them that her boyfriend, Wood, had been staying over the night before. She said they were drinking, and when she went to bed between 11:30 p.m. and midnight, Wood did not.

She said her 7-month-old and 4-year-old children "appeared to be fine" when she went to bed. When she woke up, she told deputies that Wood was gone. The complaint states that she told authorities the infant was in his bassinette with bruises all over his face, and he was cold to the touch and not breathing.

The child's death was ruled a homicide, and the 4-year-old told investigators that "James hit him," according to the complaint.

After Wood was charged in that case, the St. Cloud Times reported in 2018 that investigators were looking into Wood's past relationships to see if he might have committed similar crimes.

Then in 2019, Wood was charged with second-degree murder in another child's death.

In that complaint, filed in Sherburne County District Court, prosecutors say police were called to a medical emergency on August 30, 2015, in St. Cloud. Wood himself had called 911 to say he was babysitting a 2-year-old boy and the boy was "showing signs of medical distress." Wood told police at that time that the boy fell off a couch and hit his head, according to the complaint.

That child's mother told police that she and Wood had been seeing each other off and on for a few months, and that he had been babysitting her three children. A doctor diagnosed a brain injury, and said it would not be expected from accidentally falling off a couch, according to the complaint. The child died two days later and the death was ruled a homicide.

Wood originally pleaded not guilty in the 2018 death, but on Dec. 1, 2020 he entered pleas of guilty to second-degree murder without intent, while committing a felony, in both cases.

On Friday, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the Benton County death. He was scheduled to be sentenced in Sherburne County later in the afternoon for the other death.

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