Sentencing was pushed back Friday to Sept. 11 for a Blythe man facing up to 25 years to life behind bars for killing his roommate’s 18-month-old son nearly five years ago.
An Indio jury deliberated for several hours in February before finding 25-year-old Jordan Bracamonte guilty of one count each of second-degree murder and assault on a child under 8 with great bodily injury causing death.
Bracamonte is being held in lieu of $10 million bail at the Robert Presley Jail in Riverside pending his sentencing hearing next month at the Larson Justice Center in Indio.
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. “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. He maintained that his client “thought the child would just fall on his behind.”
“This was not assault. This was not murder,” Verlato told the jury. “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.”
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 said 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.
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, 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 did so after the judge denied a motion by Verlato to have his client tried separately on the murder and spousal abuse-related charges.
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