This is an outrage, another case just like the murder of Wyatt Garcia, another California baby murdered by his dad during court-ordered visitation. Once again, we had a mother who was never married to the baby's father, ALEX BAEZA. Daddy showed zero interest in the baby for the first year. And yet the the judge--in this case Judge John M. Pacheco--awarded the father twice-a-week visitation anyway. He then proceeded to ignore the mother's concerns regarding the child's injuries and signs of psychological trauma. In fact, he threatened to strip the mother of custody for bringing up her concerns. And now the child is dead--from head injuries that were comparable to those from a car accident.
Kudos to reporter Will Bigham for doing a super job on getting the whole context here. It is rare for reporters to provide the important back story in these cases and how these abusive fathers were actually "empowered" by the courts to do their criminal acts.
Judge orders trial for father accused of murdering Ontario toddler
Will Bigham, Staff Writer
Posted: 12/03/2010 05:44:27 PM PST
Updated: 12/03/2010 05:49:07 PM PST
RIVERSIDE - A judge ruled Friday that a man accused of killing his 2-year-old son must stand trial for murder.
Alex Baeza, 27, is accused of causing serious head injuries to Isaac Gallegos on April 10, leading to the toddler's death three days later.
The boy lived with his mother in Ontario and was allegedly abused during a court-ordered visitation at Baeza's house in Moreno Valley, according to testimony during a preliminary hearing in Riverside Superior Court.
Baeza gave conflicting explanations for the boy's injuries to the boy's mother and to several investigators, according to court testimony.
In one explanation to a Riverside County sheriff's investigator, Baeza reportedly said he grew frustrated while changing the boy's diaper and yanked at it violently, accidentally flinging the boy from a bed onto the floor.
"He said he was impatient, you know, just frustrated," said Senior Investigator Robert Masson.
The boy's mother, 23-year-old Andrea Gallegos, listened to the testimony with her family and cried during much of the hearing. She declined to comment afterward.
Her father, Mike Lester, said his family hadn't heard most of the evidence against Baeza that was presented by prosecutors during the hearing.
"(Based on) the evidence that I heard today, he is definitely, definitely guilty," Lester said in an interview. "I already knew that, though."
Gallegos and Baeza began dating when they were neighbors at a Riverside apartment complex, and Gallegos became pregnant six months later, Masson testified.
The couple split up before Isaac was born, and Baeza didn't take an interest in the child until his first birthday, Masson testified. He then obtained a court order allowing him to visit the child twice a week.
Three times before Isaac's death, the boy suffered injuries at his father's home, such as bruises and scratches, Masson testified.
Gallegos reported Isaac's injuries to several police departments and tried unsuccessfully to have Baeza's visitation rights revoked.
The morning of April 10, Gallegos brought Isaac to her aunt's house in Fontana to drop him off with Baeza, who planned to take the boy to his home in the 25400 block of Juanita Avenue in Moreno Valley.
Masson testified that Gallegos said the boy didn't want to go with his father. "Isaac was crying, was pulling away from the defendant," Masson testified.
At about 6 p.m. on April 10, Baeza called Gallegos and told her Isaac was having trouble breathing.
When the mother rushed to a nearby hospital to see her son, Baeza reportedly told her he left the boy unattended in his bedroom and when he returned the boy had fallen onto the floor.
A Riverside County sheriff's investigator testified that the bed is 27 inches from the carpeted floor.
According to testimony from several investigators, doctors said the boy suffered a serious head injury that caused fatal brain swelling.
One doctor said the blow to the boy's head was comparable to an injury a toddler might suffer in a car accident, a Riverside County sheriff's investigator testified.
At the conclusion of Friday's hearing, Judge Larrie R. Brainard ruled that prosecutors presented sufficient evidence for Baeza's case to proceed trial.
Baeza, who remains jailed in lieu of $1 million bail, is next due in court Jan. 14.
Gallegos and her family believe a San Bernardino Superior Court judge downplayed the mother's concerns when she sought seven months before Isaac's death to have Baeza's visitation rights modified.
In rejecting Gallegos' request, Judge John M. Pacheco told the mother she was overreacting and threatened to revoke her custody rights, according to a transcript of the hearing.
Lester said that his family and their friends have sent several dozen letters to Pacheco, but he has not responded.
"He'll never admit to doing anything wrong," Lester said.