A 25-year-old Blythe man was convicted Friday of second-degree murder for the death nearly five years ago of his roommate’s 18-month-old son.
Jurors deliberated for most of the day before finding Jordan Bracamonte guilty of the murder count and assault on a child under 8 with great bodily injury causing death. He faces 25 years to life in state prison, with sentencing scheduled for April 7 at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, according to district attorney’s spokesman John Hall.
Prosecutors had sought a first-degree murder conviction, alleging that Bracamonte purposely let go of Mario Perez Jr.’s hand while walking him up a flight of stairs on April 28, 2015, causing the child to tumble onto his head, resulting in injuries that resulted in his death several days later.
Deputy District Attorney Brijida Rodarte argued that Bracamonte’s documented fits of explosive anger — coupled with the fact that he intentionally lied to the boy’s father and law enforcement about the child’s injury — proved beyond a reasonable doubt that his “true nature” and “callousness” led to the toddler’s death.
“This wasn’t a gang shooting. This wasn’t a relationship gone bad. This wasn’t a robbery that ended wrong,” Rodarte said in her closing argument Thursday. “From start to finish, looking at this evidence, it’s senseless. There is no rhyme or reason. The conduct of the defendant shows his true nature.”
Defense attorney Richard Verlato conceded that his client let go of the boy’s hand — and that Bracamonte admitted as much to law enforcement during initial interviews — but said the defendant never intended for the child to fall and suffer severe injuries.
“This was not assault. This was not murder,” he said in his opening statement in January. “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.”
The defendant was arrested on April 29, 2015, following an investigation by Blythe police that began a day earlier, when the youngster was brought by his father to Palo Verde Hospital unconscious and in critical condition.
Rodarte said Bracamonte told Blythe police he was babysitting the tot in a two-story apartment he shared with his then-wife and the boy’s father when the child spilled soup on himself. Shortly afterward, the boy soiled himself, the remnants of which ended up on the couch.
The defendant then decided to take Mario to a second-floor bathroom to clean him up, according to the prosecutor, who alleged that on their way up the stairs, a frustrated Bracamonte intentionally let go of the boy’s hand, causing him to fall.
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 had.
In the video replayed for jurors Thursday, the defendant can be heard bargaining with a Blythe officer while wiping tears from his eyes during an interview at the police station.
“Say it were to be true and I tell you the truth, would I be (allowed) to go home tonight?” he asks.
Three hours after the boy fell, Bracamonte and Mario’s father drove the child to the hospital. The toddler was then airlifted to Rady Children’s Hospital in San Diego, where he was on life support until his death on May 1, 2015.
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, unrelated to the stair fall the next day.
As jury selection was getting underway in his 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 the judge denied a motion by Verlato to have his client tried separately on the murder and spousal abuse-related charges.
Verlato argued during the trial that despite his client’s history of domestic violence, no evidence was presented by prosecutors that show the defendant was ever violent toward children.
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