Another case where CPS f***ed up. They took the baby away from dad ROBERT QUIROZ once before--that was for a broken arm, just five weeks before the baby's death. They gave the baby back to him after Daddy promised to take parenting classes. The baby died from a blow to the head. He also had undiagnosed rib fractures. Mom had died during child birth.
Ex-Marine's murder trial begins in infant son's death
By Pablo Lopez / The Fresno Bee
Tuesday, Oct. 18, 2011 | 09:17 PM Modified Wed, Oct 19, 2011 07:11 AM
The long-awaited trial of a former Marine accused of murdering his 3-month-old son began Tuesday with both sides agreeing that Robert Quiroz killed his son in November 2006.
What's in dispute in Fresno County Superior Court is whether he did it intentionally, through negligence or by accident.
Quiroz, 25, of Fresno, is accused of murder and felony child abuse in causing the death of Roman Quiroz. If convicted, he faces 25 years to life in prison. The trial is expected to take two weeks.
In opening statements Tuesday, Quiroz sat calmly at the defense table while his lawyer, Michael Idiart, described him as a man who worshipped his wife, Candice, and joined the Marines to give his family a better life. But the evidence in Judge Jonathan Conklin's courtroom likely will open an old wound for Fresno County's Child Protective Service.
Social workers had taken Roman away from his father about five weeks before his death after it was discovered that he had a broken arm. A few days later, social workers returned Roman after his father agreed to take parenting classes, Idiart said.
Much of the evidence is not in dispute.
Quiroz, then 20, was in the Middle East for only a few days when he learned that his wife had died while giving birth to Roman on Aug. 21, 2006. Candice was put on life support. The lance corporal rushed home and laid by her side – holding her hand and talking to her – for several hours before doctors took her off life support, Idiart said.
Soon after, he had the difficult task of burying his 20-year-old wife and taking care of his newborn son – who was fussy, cried a lot and was colicky – and his 14-month-old daughter, Kylie.
Idiart said his grieving client was not prepared for that task. Three months later, Roman would die from a blow to the back of his head, both Idiart and prosecutor Michael Frye said in opening statements.
"Roman led a tragic life," Frye told the panel, "because he lost his mother at the time of his birth, and his life was taken by the person who should have cared for him the most."
Frye said Quiroz willfully inflicted the fatal injury and he was never truthful about it to police detectives. Frye also said that about five weeks before Roman died, the ulna and radius on his left arm were fractured. And after Roman died, an autopsy revealed he suffered 10 broken ribs. The broken ribs happened about 72 hours before Roman's death, Frye said.
Quiroz never explained how those injuries happened, either, he said.
Idiart, however, said Quiroz loved his son and that he didn't know how his son broke his arm and fractured his ribs. CPS and police investigated, but could never prove Quiroz had broken his son's arm. By returning Roman to his father, social workers apparently didn't believe Quiroz was a danger to his son, Idiart told jurors.
In addition, Quiroz had taken Roman to the doctor for a checkup on his broken arm a day before he died, Idiart said. "Apparently, no one on this planet knew Roman had broken ribs – not even the doctor," Idiart said.
But Idiart conceded that Quiroz inflicted the fatal head injury, describing his client as a Marine with no parenting skills. "Frankly, he didn't know what the hell he was doing," he told the panel.
Quiroz's actions were negligent – not intentional, Idiart said. "He accepts full responsibility for what he did."
On the morning of Nov. 18, 2006, Quiroz and his brother started moving Quiroz's belongings to his new apartment. Afterward, Quiroz took Roman and Kylie to a birthday party in Kerman. That evening, he returned home with his two tired children.
According to Idiart, Roman was fussy so Quiroz put him down on a couch. Quiroz aimed for a pillow, but accidentally hit his son's head against the wooden armrest of the couch, Idiart said. The injury, however, wasn't readily apparent – there was no cut or bruising, Idiart told the jury. Quiroz then gave his son a bottle of milk while he put Kylie to bed.
About 20 minutes later, Quiroz noticed his son wasn't breathing. He started CPR and called 911.
Autopsy photographs don't show the head fracture until the infant's scalp is pulled back, Idiart said. Jurors will have to see those photographs, he warned. In addition, jurors will hear Quiroz tape-recorded statements he gave to detectives.
Quiroz plans to testify in the trial, which has been on hold for years because Quiroz's first attorney, Ernest Kinney, died of cancer in April 2008. Idiart took over the case, but changes in prosecutors also have delayed the trial.