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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (AP) -- A murder charge has been dropped against a sex offender accused of killing a 4-year-old boy three years ago.

The charge was dismissed after 39-year-old James Columbus Morrison Jr. of Winston-Salem pleaded guilty Wednesday to felony child abuse resulting in serious injury.

Forsyth Superior Court Judge Gary Gavenus sentenced Morrison to 34 months to 50 months in prison.

Emerson Isiah Cardona died in Oct. 18, 2009, from a blow to the head. Morrison's fiance had custody of the boy.

Assistant District Attorney Belinda Foster said Morrison admitted beating the child with a coat hanger the previous day but those injuries would not have led to his death. Prosecutors said they could not prove that Morrison's actions led to the child's death, so they dropped the murder charge.

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