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Trial opens for man accused of stabbing baby

May 16, 2002|By MARIO RENTERÍA

Staff Writer

It was about 2:20 p.m. May 14, 2001.

Theresa Robles walked into her bedroom and placed her 6-month-old grandson in her bed. She carefully corralled him with pillows so he would not fall off the edge of the bed.

She covered half of his body with a blanket and walked back into the living room. About 10 minutes later she heard a gurgling coming from her bedroom.

"Oh, he's awake," she thought, according to her court testimony Wednesday, so she walked to the room to check on him.


He wasn't there. She assumed someone else in the house had picked him up.

She walked into her daughter's bedroom to get a diaper. She asked her son, Sal Robles, 23, if he had the baby. He said he didn't.

She asked her nephew Benjamin Jason Escobar, then 19, if he had seen the baby. He said "no."

Escobar, now 20, is on trial in the County Courthouse in El Centro for trying to kill his infant cousin.

Robles testified Wednesday that after talking to her son and Escobar, she was worried a bit and went back to her room to thoroughly check the bed.

She removed the sheets and found a pool of blood where the baby had been sleeping. She screamed and called out for her son.

She started a frantic search through the house. She called 911 and continued to search the house for the child.

About 2:57 p.m., District Attorney's detective David Fimbres was driving just outside of Imperial, about five blocks from Robles' house, when he heard El Centro Police Department dispatchers dispatching Imperial police to the house.

He rushed to the house in the 600 block of Yucca Street to aid in the search. When he arrived he talked to the grandmother, who was distraught.

He also interviewed Escobar, who Fimbres testified Wednesday seemed calm despite what was going on.

Fimbres noticed Escobar was not wearing a shirt. Fimbres asked him why he wasn't wearing a shirt. Escobar told him he lived there.

Fimbres also noticed Escobar's hands were a little damp, as if they had just been washed.

Imperial police began to arrive as Fimbres started to search outside the home. He was told a bloody shirt was found outside the house to the west so he searched for the baby on the west side of the house.

He searched every trash can, behind every bush, fence and anywhere else a small infant could fit. He reached the end of the block and headed back toward the house on the other side of the street.

In a house almost directly in front of the boy's home he saw three or four trash cans. He opened one in the middle and saw a small foot sticking out from underneath a white trash bag.

There were about five or six children close enough to see inside the trash can, so he didn't remove the bag. He called over Imperial police Investigator Ray Valenzuela.

Fimbres told Valenzuela what he found. The children were taken from the area and Valenzuela removed the bag while Fimbres watched.

"I saw the baby face down in the trash can with blood coming from the side of his neck," Fimbres testified.

Valenzuela took the child and called for paramedics. The boy was rushed to the hospital.

The baby survived the attack but has some paralysis in his mouth from being stabbed in the neck.

The trial of Escobar started Wednesday after two days of jury selection and screening of 120 potential jurors.

While both Robles and Fimbres testified, a blown-up picture of the baby, wearing blue denim overalls, a white shirt, white shoes and sitting in a small rocking chair, was placed next to the witness stand.

The infant's family, all wearing purple shirts, sat close and clutched each other as some quietly cried. Escobar listened to the testimony while surrounded by two Imperial County Sheriff's Office bailiffs.

Escobar is thought to have stabbed the infant while he slept, then carried him to a trash can across the street and left him for dead there.

Escobar had been staying with his aunt, Robles, for about a week and half at that time, visiting from his home in Huntington Park.

Imperial County Deputy District Attorney Deborah Owen told jurors during her opening statements that Escobar admitted to police he stabbed the infant with the intent to kill him.

She told the jury he originally planned to kill the infant's sister but chose the baby because he was smaller. The sister was 8 years old at the time of incident.

Owen said she will present jurors with taped testimony where Escobar admits to the allegations against him.

Escobar's court-appointed attorney, Thomas Storey, did not give an opening statement or cross-examine Robles.

Storey also did not get a chance to cross-examine Fimbres. Superior Court Judge Matias Contreras ended the day's testimony before Storey had a chance to do so.

He set the trial to reconvene at 9 a.m. Friday in the County Courthouse in El Centro.

The trial could be in two phases. The first phase will be to determine whether Escobar committed the crime. If the jury finds him guilty, the second phase will be to establish whether he was insane at the time of the incident. If in the first phase he is found not guilty the second phase will be canceled.

>>Staff Writer Mario Rentería can be reached at 337-3441.

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