Thursday, January 8, 2015

Dad indicted on murder charges for beating death of 2-month-old son (Louisville, Kentucky)


Father of beaten baby indicted on murder charge

Claire Galofaro, 6:50 p.m. EST January 8, 2015

A 25-year-old father, whose brain-dead baby launched a weeks-long legal fight over life support, was indicted Thursday on a murder charge.

Juan Alejandro Lopez Rosales had been held in jail for six months on abuse charges, awaiting an autopsy for his 2-month-old baby, Issac Lopez, declared brain-dead July 2.

Issac, born May 1, was admitted to Kosair Children's Hospital on June 29 with a broken skull, rib fractures, respiratory failure and blood and fluid pooling around his brain, according to Jefferson County court filings.

His father at first told police he found the infant shaking on the sofa, his eyes rolled back in his head, though denied knowing how he'd been injured, according to the police report. But Lopez later admitted he hit the baby's head on a wall and the bathtub several days earlier. He said considered seeking medical treatment earlier but "abandoned efforts because the facilities asked too many questions or they were too far away."

Four doctors at Kosair concluded through a series of neurological tests that every part of Issac's brain had shut down: both the upper brain, which controls thought and voluntary movement, and the brain stem, the stalk of neural tissue that connects the spinal cord to the brain and controls involuntary actions like breathing and reflex.

Kentucky law recognizes two definitions of death. The first is cardiac arrest, the second is "total and irreversible cessation of all brain function, including the brain stem and that such determination is made by at least two licensed physicians."

Issac was declared dead on July 2. But the the baby remained on life support for 23 days, as his mother, Iveth Yaneth Garcia-Menchaca, pleaded with the court to forbid Kosair Children's Hospital from removing the machines that kept his heart beating.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman eventually sided with the hospital, allowing doctors to terminate support.

Jefferson County Coroner Barbara Weakley-Jones said at the time she was concerned about determining the precise brain injuries that lead to the baby's death. Though the child remained on life support, a dead brain will begin to decompose, making medical analysis difficult. Weakley-Jones did not return a call this week seeking comment on the complications in deciding the child's cause of death.

Lopez is facing the possibility of life in prison without the possibility of parole, or the death penalty, if prosecutors choose to seek it.