Testifying in the trial of a man suspected of beating his girlfriend’s toddler in 2011, a forensic child abuse expert said Thursday the 21-month-old girl’s “constellation” of injuries were inconsistent with an accident.
A portion of the toddler’s skull had to be removed when the girl was hospitalized April 9, 2011, a move that is “not common except in cases of severe accidental trauma or abusive trauma,” Dr. Amy Young, a forensic pediatrician at Loma Linda University Medical Center, testified.
Adan Diaz Orozco, 31, is charged with child cruelty and an allegation of causing great bodily injury. Testifying for the prosecution, Young said the toddler’s brain injuries could be likened to a car crash or two-story fall.
“Somebody can’t give you a G-force or an equation to say the exact force, but liken it to when we see these types of injuries and accidental trauma,” Young said.
On the stand, Young reviewed photos of the toddler — identified only as Jane Doe — she took during an examination two days after she arrived at the hospital. When investigating cases, Young said she looks at a “constellation of findings.”
In Doe’s case, the “constellation” included a second-degree burn on an arm consistent with a cigarette burn, a bruising pattern on the upper left arm consistent with being held by a hand and cuts around the girl’s nipples, in addition to the severe brain trauma.
Deputy District Attorney Samantha Paixao asked Young, “If the body is that of an average 21-month-old — their average weight — would we expect to see this kind of intervention necessary if they just had fallen over?”
Young replied, “No.”
Orozco and his girlfriend brought the girl to John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio, and she was later airlifted to Loma Linda University Medical Center. Sheriff’s officials said they were called to the Indio hospital by workers who suspected child abuse, leading to Orozco’s arrest.
Defense attorney Dante Gomez said during his opening statement that after waking the girl up from a nap, Orozco tried to feed her but she refused and threw the food on the ground.
Orozco then “tapped her on the butt, and she kept crying and crying and crying,” Gomez said. “And then, he at a certain point just said `enough’ and threw his arm back and made contact with her, not realizing she was there.”
That contact pushed the girl into a group of chairs next to the bed, according to the defense lawyer, who said Orozco immediately called the toddler’s mother, then picked her up with the toddler in the car.
The mother began doing CPR compressions on the girl, Gomez said, and when they arrived at the hospital, she jumped out of the car and unintentionally slammed the toddler’s head on the car door.
“This is a case of a rush to judgment, an accident and a biased investigation,” Gomez said.
In her opening statement, Paixao challenged the claim that the girl’s injuries were the result of an accident.
“That’s what he is going to want you to believe,” Paixao told jurors. “But we know she ended up needing her skull taken off to allow the swelling of the bleeding that was on her brain.”
Orozco faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted.
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