(Reuters) - A South Dakota judge sentenced a Sioux Falls man to life in prison on Thursday for killing the 2-year-old son of Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson in 2013, the Argus-Leader newspaper reported.Joseph Patterson, 29, was convicted in September of second-degree murder in the death of Tyrese Ruffin, who was the son of his then-girlfriend and Peterson. Under state law, he faced a mandatory life sentence without parole.Prosecutors say Ruffin suffered blows to the head while in Patterson's care and died from hemorrhaging, while defense attorneys had argued that the child's death was accidental and the result of choking on snacks.
Patterson denied his role in Ruffin's death at the sentencing hearing, the newspaper reported."This is probably where people expect a guilty person to turn around and ask for forgiveness," Patterson said, according to the newspaper. "I'm not guilty. All I did was try to help."
Police have said they were called to a Sioux Falls apartment in October 2013 because Patterson reported that he had found Ruffin slumped over and unresponsive. Doctors determined that Ruffin's injuries were consistent with abuse. The boy died two days later.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.
In an unrelated case, Peterson in 2014 pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor assault charge for spanking his four-year-old son with a switch. He was ordered to pay a $4,000 fine and perform community service.
(Reporting by Lisa Maria Garza in Dallas; Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Sandra Maler)