- Associated Press - Monday, January 27, 2014

HILLSBORO, Ohio (AP) - A Kentucky man has been found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the death of a 1-year-old boy found buried in the woods of southern Ohio last May.

Highland County Prosecutor Anneka Collins said Monday that Nathan Ritze was sentenced to seven years in prison in the death of Garin Niehaus.

Collins said family members of the child had approved the sentence she recommended, but she declined to make further comment pending the trial next week of the boy’s mother, Whitney Johnson, 27.

Johnson and Ritze, 25, both formerly of Hillsboro, were arrested in Richmond, Ky., after the body was found. Police said they located the body after receiving a tip expressing concern about the boy’s whereabouts.

The two were indicted in August on charges of murder, involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse. Johnson has pleaded not guilty.

Authorities say the pair eventually told police that they had found the child unresponsive and buried him on Dec. 19, 2012.

Ritze entered his plea Friday in Hillsboro under the Alford doctrine, meaning he does not admit guilt but acknowledges that prosecutors could likely prove the charge.

Ritze’s attorney, Jacob Wagoner, didn’t immediately return a call for comment Monday. But Wagoner requested that the court follow the plea agreement, according to the Times-Gazette of Hillsboro.

The cause of Garin’s death is unknown, Collins said.

Emily Hall, sister of the child’s father - Ian Niehaus - told Ritze at Friday’s hearing that he had robbed the child of a proper burial, the Times-Gazette of Hillsboro reported.

“I haven’t found it in my heart to forgive you yet,” Hall told Ritze. “But I hope to someday.”

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