A prosecution witness testified Wednesday that she contacted authorities out of concern about the conditions in which a baby had been living at an emergency family shelter in Culver City about 1 1/2 months before the child’s body was allegedly dumped in a suitcase inside a trash bin.
At a hearing in which a judge is being asked to determine if there is sufficient evidence to require Jacsun Manson’s parents to stand trial on one count each of child abuse resulting in death, Ariana Herrera testified that she noticed trash, rotten food and drug paraphernalia in the unit, along with cigarette butts and ashes on the floor near a baby bouncer in mid-November 2018.
Herrera, the shelter’s housing case manager, said she contacted the shelter’s program manager and met with the baby’s parents, Kiana Williams and Adam Manson, to express her concerns about the “deplorable” living conditions before notifying the Department of Children and Family Services.
“I called because the baby, I thought that he was unsafe,” the shelter’s housing case manager told Los Angeles Superior Court Judge M.L. Villar.
Another prosecution witness, Department of Public Social Services eligibility worker Vicky Lee, testified that she called a DCFS hotline to report that there was a “reasonable suspicion of abuse” after Manson spoke with her in January and denied having any contact with the baby or Williams since last Nov. 13.
Manson denied that the baby was his son, despite being listed as the father on Jacsun’s birth certificate, and he reported that Williams was in jail and that the boy might be with her new boyfriend, according to Lee.
Cristina Herrera, a supervising DCFS social worker, testified that Williams said in a jailhouse interview in January that she wasn’t sure where the baby was, but that the child might be with Manson.
“She said, `I’m sorry for what I have done,” Herrera said, adding that the woman said she wanted to go into a drug treatment program.
Herrera said she helped to file a missing person’s report about the boy on Jan. 25 following an investigation into addresses that Williams had provided.
“We wanted to make sure he was safe,” she said, noting that Williams reported that she had been a daily methamphetamine user, that the family had been homeless and that the baby had not been seen by a doctor.
Through a Spanish interpreter, trash truck driver Martin Ramirez testified that he arrived at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw mall about 6:30 a.m. Jan. 15 and noticed trash in what was supposed to be a bin solely for green waste.
He said he found a burgundy suitcase with black stripes, and eventually began smelling “something rotten.”
Investigators believe the boy’s body is at the El Sobrante Landfill in Corona, but it has not been found.
When the case against the two was filed Feb. 27, Deputy District Attorney Jon Hatami said Williams and Manson were staying with their infant son in a South Los Angeles motel room on New Year’s Eve and were allegedly doing drugs and later found their child was dead. The parents put their son’s body in a suitcase and left it in the trash bin, the prosecutor alleged.
Hatami told a judge last month that investigators are trying to determine if blood found in a PT Cruiser and a motel room belonged to the baby.
Culver City police said in February that investigators believe Manson and Williams “are responsible for the disappearance and death” of their son.
“We also believe that after his death, Adam and Kiana discarded Jacson’s body in a dumpster somewhere near the (Baldwin Hills) Crenshaw mall in Los Angeles,” police said, leading them to believe the boy’s remains are in the Riverside County landfill.
Williams, 32, and Manson, 34, were arrested Jan. 3 by Los Angeles police after being found in a stolen U-Haul vehicle. Los Angeles police Officer Luke Coyle — who identified the two in court — testified that he didn’t see a baby in the vehicle with them and that neither of the two mentioned that they had a baby. He said Manson identified himself with a different last name.
Another LAPD officer, Carlos Aguirre, testified that he saw Manson on Feb. 2 near a U-Haul vehicle that had been reported stolen. The officer — who said there is video of the incident from his body-worn camera — told the judge that he believed Manson may have said he couldn’t go to jail that night because he needed to see his baby, but didn’t list it in his police report about the incident because he didn’t know the relevance of the baby at that time.
Williams and Manson remain jailed in lieu of $5 million bail.
The hearing is set to continue Thursday in a downtown Los Angeles courtroom.