Closing arguments are scheduled Thursday in the trial of a man suspected of beating his girlfriend’s toddler in 2011, leaving her with permanent brain damage.
Adan Diaz Orozco, 31, of Coachella is charged with child cruelty with a great bodily injury sentence enhancement. He was arrested after his girlfriend’s then-18-month-old daughter was hospitalized April 9, 2011, with injuries consistent with child abuse, according to Riverside County sheriff’s Sgt. Todd Torrenti.
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.”
A portion of the toddler’s skull had to be removed when the girl was hospitalized, 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 last week.
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.”
The day before Young’s testimony, Dr. Daniel Kido, a radiologist from Loma Linda University Medical Center, testified in front of a jury that neurosurgeons treating the girl inserted a catheter into her brain to lessen the swelling and that the girl suffered permanent damage to her occipital lobe.
“The really big finding here that I think was concerning to me was the patient had an infarction — which is the same kind of infarction you get with a stroke. There was no blood supply to that area and that part of the brain is going to die,” Kido said.
In court, outside the presence of the jury, Paixao said the girl still needs to wear glasses — a result of the damage to her occipital lobe.
Orozco faces up to 12 years in prison if convicted.
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