Lafayette child killer escapes death penalty with guilty plea

Ron Hamilton
Ron Hamilton

A 33-year-old Lafayette man escaped a possible death sentence Thursday when he pleaded guilty to the 2011 first-degree murder of a 9-year-old child, an asthmatic boy who investigators said was beaten relentlessly.

Ronjoerox Damiso Hamilton will spend the rest of his life in state prison without the possibility of parole after admitting to 15th District Judge Marilyn Castle that he killed his girlfriend’s son, Dylan James Royer, two years ago.

Hamilton answered Castle with simple “yes” and “no” answers, usually before the question was completely posed. He uttered more than one syllable only once, when he questioned why Castle wanted him to take off his darkened prescription eye glasses.

Castle said she wanted to look into Hamilton’s eyes as she sentenced him.

Hamilton wore the orange jumpsuit and orange footwear of a Lafayette Parish prisoner, his ankles cuffed and his hands bound to a wrap-around chain that sometimes rested atop his protruding belly.

He had been scheduled for a capital murder trial on Oct. 7.

Prosecutor J.N. Prather Jr., a Lafayette Parish assistant district attorney, said that on June 11, 2011, Hamilton beat “for an extended period of time” an asthmatic boy “who the defendant knew was frail.”

Dylan died at a local hospital the next day.

The beating occurred at a house on Mineral Road in Lafayette Parish, near Pinhook and Southpark roads.

Castle granted Prather’s request to seal autopsy photos on Thursday.

“The horrendous photographs of this child’s body were sealed to protect the family,” Prather said.

“These were some of the worst injuries I’ve ever seen in 25 years of prosecuting cases,” he said.

Prather said after the sentencing that Dylan’s tearful grandfather, E.J. Royer, didn’t want to speak to the media or make a statement. He said he was asked to speak on Royer’s behalf.

“They feel that justice has been accomplished for their child,” Prather said.

Hamilton was indicted Sept. 28, 2011, on one count of first-degree murder and one count of possessing cocaine with the intent to distribute the drug. The cocaine charge was dropped Thursday after Hamilton pleaded guilty.

The same indictment charged Dylan’s mother, Stefani Morgan, with being a principal to Dylan’s death.

Outside the courtroom Thursday, Morgan wept.

Morgan’s attorney in the principal to murder charge, Alfred Boustany II, said Morgan would make no comment to the media. Authorities have said Morgan was at the home as her son was being beaten.

Prather said medical investigators determined that Dylan was beaten for more than an hour.

Prather and the District Attorney’s Office filed their intent to seek the death penalty in November 2011, listing factors that elevated the crime to a capital case.

The factors included that the victim was under the age of 12, and the act was “committed in an especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner,” according to court documents in the case.

The original trial date of Oct. 1, 2012, came and went as Hamilton’s attorneys fought the capital murder case, including a failed attempt to have Hamilton’s confession thrown out of court.