RACINE — Prosecutors say the 3-month-old baby who died last month after being in his father’s care suffered traumatic brain injuries as a result of being shaken or struck against a soft surface.
But the man’s public defender argued Thursday that the child’s death could have easily been caused by a seizure.
Josue Santiago-Vasquez’s attorney, Mindy Nolan, raised the issue during a preliminary hearing, asking that the reckless homicide charge against her client be dismissed. She contended that the state had not provided sufficient evidence that the child’s injuries were caused by the defendant.
Following testimony Thursday, Nolan said there is a lot that officials still don’t know.
“The investigator testified that she had no knowledge of all of the other types of internal factors that could lead to the internal injuries that were discussed by the doctor,” Nolan said. “There was no (indication) of external trauma, there was no (indication) of any type of abuse toward this child.”
Racine County Court Commissioner Stephen Simanek, however, ultimately found that the state, through the testimony of Racine Police Investigator Sarah Zupke, had presented enough evidence to bind Santiago-Vasquez, 30, over to stand trial for the death of his son.
“The court must consider the facts, along with any reasonable inferences from those facts, which would lead a reasonable person to conclude that a crime has probably been committed and that the defendant probably committed the crime,” Simanek said. “There may be seizure disorder issues in the defendant’s family. But the court, under the circumstances, needs not consider those … the state has presented today what I believe to be a reasonable inference that this child suffered death through non-accidental means.”
Charges and testimony
Thursday’s preliminary hearing comes a month after police and rescue personnel were called to Santiago-Vazquez’ home in the 1000 block of Park Avenue, on a report that the man’s infant son was not breathing. Santiago-Vazquez reportedly told police that the child had fallen and stopped breathing, but investigators became concerned when the defendant was overheard speaking with his girlfriend, who reportedly told him to stick with his story, his criminal complaint states.
When the child was first examined at Ascension All Saints Hospital in Racine, his condition was believed to be due to natural causes. But a doctor at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Wauwatosa, who examined the child the next day, stated the child had suffered severe subdural hematoma and retinal hemorrhaging — injuries consistent with violent shaking or rapid acceleration and deceleration.
“They had reviewed a CAT … and described his injuries as being bleeding on the brain, and that the bleeding was in several different areas,” Zupke testified Thursday.
After reviewing photos of the infant taken at about 2:29 p.m. on April 11, the doctor reportedly determined the injury occurred between 2:29 p.m. and the time in which Santiago-Vazquez called 911 about three hours later. During that time period, Santiago-Vazquez was reportedly the primary caregiver of the child.
The infant died from his injuries on April 16.
Santiago-Vazquez remained in custody in the Racine County Jail as of Thursday afternoon, court records showed.