A 24-year-old Pomona woman and her stepson must stand trial on murder and child-abuse charges in the Sept. 28 drowning of the woman's 2-year-old child in Angeles National Forest, a Glendale judge has ruled.
After a three-day preliminary hearing last week, Glendale Municipal Judge J. D. Smith ordered Nancy Ruiz, 24, and her stepson, James Ruiz, 18, to face a Nov. 7 Superior Court arraignment. Smith called the child's death "the worst kind of torture."
The boy, his body covered with more than 72 bruises, died shortly after being flown from the forest by helicopter to Verdugo Hills Hospital in Glendale, according to testimony. Police allege that the couple beat the child, then dunked him repeatedly in a stream.
The pair, who police said admitted that they were lovers, were first arrested on suspicion of child abuse. When an autopsy revealed that the child had died of drowning, they were charged with murder.
Nancy Ruiz lived in Pomona with her husband Edgar, the owner of a dress manufacturing factory, and their three children. Edgar Ruiz also has two older children from a previous marriage, Christina and James.
In the summer of 1985, James Ruiz moved in with his father's family and became involved in an affair with his stepmother, according to Sgt. Jerome Beck of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's homicide division.
On Sept. 3, when Edgar Ruiz confronted them about their relationship, Mrs. Ruiz and her stepson gathered the three children and fled to a Hollywood motel where they lived for nine days, Beck said.
They then moved the family to the car, Beck said, where they lived for about a week until moving to the West Fork Campground at Angeles National Forest, about 20 miles north of Glendale, on Sept. 22.
Campground employee Ron Sanford testified that he was summoned to the campsite by James Ruiz and saw Michael sprawled on a table, his mother administering cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The child, Sanford testified, had "no color, no warmth, no anything." He said Mrs. Ruiz told him the child had choked on some juice.
The other children, who were not injured, were returned to their father, who, police said, had searched frantically for his family.
At the preliminary hearing, the court-appointed attorneys for the defendants attempted to have the statements their clients made to police suppressed.
They argued that, when Mrs. Ruiz was first questioned at the hospital by a sheriff's deputy, she was not informed of Miranda rights allowing her to remain silent until she obtained legal help.
But Smith ruled that the deputy was merely talking to family members regarding the child's death and was under no obligation to read the Miranda rights until Mrs. Ruiz was arrested.