A judge's gavel. Photo via Pixabay.
A judge’s gavel. Photo via Pixabay.

A judge confirmed Wednesday that prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty against an Indio man accused in the torture beating and shaking death of his 3-month-old son.

The victim’s parents, Leonardo Daniel Alvarado Fernandez, 34, and Zue Urias, 27, were arrested 14 months ago, after police responded to a report that they had brought their dead infant, Marco, into an Indio hospital. The couple allegedly said the death was “God’s Will.”

Both defendants are charged with murder and assault on a child under 8 years old resulting in death, but Fernandez alone additionally faces one count of torture and two counts of willful cruelty to a child, along with a special circumstance allegation of inflicting torture that makes him eligible for capital punishment if convicted.

At a hearing Wednesday morning, Riverside County Superior Court Judge Burke Strunsky announced that the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office had filed paperwork signaling its intent to seek a death sentence for Fernandez. Strunsky then ordered the case moved to a separate courtroom within the Larson Justice Center in Indio, where both defendants are scheduled to appear for a felony settlement conference on April 2.

Fernandez remains in custody without bail, while Urias is being held on $2 million bail.

Police were sent to John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio about 4:30 a.m. on Jan. 16, 2020, on a report that two parents had brought in their dead child, who had sustained traumatic injuries, according to the Indio Police Department. The defendants were arrested on suspicion of murder at 12:15 p.m. that day.

In a court declaration in support of increased bail, Indio police Detective Kelly Hawkins alleged that during questioning, Fernandez admitted physically abusing the baby prior to shaking him until he stopped breathing.

“(Urias) also stated she did nothing to attempt to stop the abuse,” Hawkins wrote. The “victim had a cut to the right eye, black eye, bruises to the back, chest, face, legs and bottom of the feet,” she said.

The couple were recorded by police saying the boy’s death was “God’s will,” and that after they posted bail, they planned to flee to their native Mexico, according to Hawkins.

Urias told detectives she saw her boyfriend shake the infant until he “went limp,” and didn’t check on the child until 30 minutes later, according to the declaration, which says authorities determined the child died due to blunt force trauma and physical abuse.

The couple’s three other children were previously placed in the custody of Riverside County Child Protective Services, according to police.

Neither defendant has any documented felony convictions in Riverside County, court records show.

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