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Hicks Pleads Guilty to Second-Degree Murder in Death of Infant

By Nathan Ham

Ryan Neil Hicks, 25, of 375 Ray Brown Road pleaded guilty to four charges on Monday, including second-degree murder in the death of 10-month-old Caius Alexander Bruner in March of 2017.

According to information provided by the office of District Attorney Seth Banks, Hicks also pleaded guilty to one count of negligent child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury, one count of intentional child abuse resulting in serious physical injury and one count of failing to register as a sex offender.

Superior Court Judge Gary Gavenus sentenced Hicks to serve a minimum prison sentence of 23 years to a maximum sentence of 30 years.

“Through his malicious actions, Ryan Hicks has taken an innocent life and permanently scarred the family of the victims in this case,” Banks said in a statement. “We as a community must speak with one voice in condemning child abuse and all of its terrible consequences. Through this please, it is our sincere hope that the family can reach some semblance of closure in this case. I would like to thank the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and Assistant District Attorney Jasmine McKinney for their hard work in seeing that Ryan Neil Hicks was brought to justice.”

On March 1, 2017, the Watauga County Communications Center received a 911 call in reference to an infant not breathing at Hicks’ resident. The infant was transported to Watauga Medical Center and then on to Brenner’s Children’s Hospital in Winston-Salem.

The following day, as a result of an investigation by the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and the Watauga County Department of Social Services, Hicks was arrested on the initial charges of failing to register as a sex offender and negligent child abuse inflicting serious bodily injury. Hicks was given a $75,000 bond. The investigation also determined that Hicks had struck and injured the deceased child’s older brother.

On March 3, the infant died at Brenner’s Children’s Hospital and on March 4, the second-degree murder charge was added on. Hicks’ bond was raised to $1.1 million.