An anger-prone Blythe man let go of his roommate’s 18-month-old son while walking him upstairs, causing the boy to tumble and suffer a fatal head injury, a prosecutor told a jury Wednesday, but a defense attorney said that while his client admits releasing the boy’s hand, the child’s death was unintentional.
Jordan Bracamonte, 25, is charged with first-degree murder and assault on a child under 8 resulting in death, with a sentencing enhancement of inflicting great bodily injury.
Bracamonte was arrested April 29, 2015, following an investigation by Blythe police that began when a young boy was brought by his father to Palo Verde Hospital unconscious and in critical condition.
Deputy District Attorney Brijida Rodarte said Bracamonte told Blythe police he was babysitting Mario Perez Jr. on the morning of April 28, 2015, in a two-story apartment he shared with his then-wife and the boy’s father.
While Bracamonte was babysitting, the boy spilled food on himself and the defendant decided to take Mario to a second-floor bathroom to clean the child, Rodarte said.
On their way up the stairs, a frustrated Bracamonte let go of the boy’s hand, causing him to fall and suffer fatal injuries, Rodarte said. The prosecutor said Bracamonte initially denied during about two hours of questioning by police that he had released the boy’s hand, but later admitted that he did.
Bracamonte’s public defender, Richard Verlato, conceded that his client let go of the boy’s hand, but he never thought the child would fall and suffer severe injuries.
“This was not assault. This was not murder,” Verlato said in his opening statement. “Ultimately, is Jordan responsible for the injury? Yes, he’s admitted that now. He did not intend to kill the child. He did not intend for the child to become seriously injured.”
In an earlier court filing, Verlato wrote that Bracamonte “thought the child would just fall on his behind, but letting go of his grasp caused the child to fall down the stairs and hit his head.”
Three hours after the boy fell, Bracamonte and Mario’s father drove the toddler to the hospital. The boy was then airlifted to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, where he was on life support until his death on May 1, 2015, which a medical examiner later ruled was the result of blunt force trauma.
Verlato told jurors his client admits to making a mistake, but the mistake was not malicious and he should not be convicted of murder.
Rodarte said a medical examination showed the toddler suffered multiple bruises to the face, indicating child abuse. But Verlato said those injuries stemmed from a minor bathtub fall the boy had on April 27, 2015, which was unrelated to the stair fall the next day.
“Those minor bruises had nothing to do with (the toddler’s) death,” Verlato told the jury.
As jury selection was getting underway in the trial, Bracamonte pleaded guilty to four counts of spousal abuse and one count each of criminal threats and false imprisonment involving his ex-wife. He entered the plea after Riverside County Superior Court Judge Otis Sterling denied a motion by Verlato to have Bracamonte tried separately on the murder and spousal abuse-related charges.
Verlato argued that evidence specifically related to the spousal abuse-related allegations could sway jurors to convict his client on the murder charge.
Trial is scheduled to resume Thursday at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.
Bracamonte is being held at the Indio jail in lieu of $10 million bail.
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