A man was convicted Monday of second-degree murder and assault charges for the beating death of his girlfriend’s 22-month-old baby in Indio nearly a decade ago.
Esteban Alamo, who was a 24 parolee at the time of his arrest, was found guilty of causing fatal injuries to Serik Nieto, which led to the child’s Oct. 9, 2010 death. Alamo, who’s now 33, is due to be sentenced Nov. 22.
Jurors began deliberating last week and spent about three days discussing the case behind closed doors before one panelist was dismissed Monday afternoon and replaced by an alternate. The reconstituted panel was instructed to begin deliberations anew and convicted the defendant an hour later of the murder charge and assault on a child causing death.
Alamo was living with his girlfriend in Indio at the time of the toddler’s death, violating a requirement of his parole that he remain in Los Angeles County.
According to prosecutors, he babysat the youngster on Oct. 4, 2010, for four to five hours while the mother ran errands. When she returned, she found her son unresponsive with irregular breathing — and with “white, foamy saliva” on his lip.
The child was taken to John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio and later transferred to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he was pronounced brain-dead and days later was taken off life support.
In his closing argument, defense attorney Jacob Devane asked the jury to consider two alternative scenarios that he said could exonerate his client, proposing that the child could have fallen while playing or that the mother caused the injuries.
“You cannot exclude the mother as the perpetrator who inflicted the injuries on the child,” he said. “If you cannot exclude her, then you cannot convict Mr. Alamo.”
Deputy District Attorney Joshua Hill countered that Alamo’s own account to police indicated that the injury to toddler occurred when his mother was away from the home.
“You cannot use imaginary doubt or speculative doubt,” Hill told the jury.
Following the verdict, the victim’s aunt, Stefanie Nieto, said she and many of her family members believe Alamo is innocent.
Nieto, who is the sister of the boy’s biological father, said Alamo was in Los Angeles at the time the child sustained his injuries, and that the boy’s mother neglected to take Serik to the hospital for days afterward.
Nieto said years after the baby’s death, she was told by the victim’s older sister that the child tumbled down some stairs.
“There is no physical evidence saying this man did it,” Nieto told reporters outside the Indio courthouse. She added that the mother blamed Alamo, but alleged her “neglectfulness” and failure “to do her motherly duties” were actually to blame.
Police interviewed Alamo when the victim was first taken to a hospital, but didn’t realize he was in violation of his parole for being a felon in possession of a firearm.
In a second police interview at Loma Linda University Medical Center three days after the child’s injury, Alamo said that after the toddler came inside from playing, nothing appeared to be wrong except for a cut lip that the defendant presumed was from a fall.
“I have nothing to hide,” Alamo said in a recording of the interview previously played to the court. “I know it looks bad, especially for me.”
He also said during the interview that even though he occasionally disciplined his girlfriend’s children, he had grown fond of them.
Alamo was arrested Oct. 14, 2010, in Los Angeles County for the parole violation. It took Riverside County coroner’s officials several months to complete an autopsy on the toddler, and charges related to his death were not filed against Alamo until February 2011.
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