A 23-year-old Lancaster man pleaded not guilty Tuesday to raping, sodomizing and killing his girlfriend's 13-month-old daughter.
Antelope Municipal Judge Ian Grant ordered Robert B. Patalsky, a carpet cleaner, held without bail pending a Dec. 12 preliminary hearing. If convicted, Patalsky could be sentenced to death or to life in prison.
His girlfriend rushed out of the courtroom in tears after the brief hearing and declined to comment on the case.
The Los Angeles County district attorney's office filed a murder charge against Patalsky in Lancaster on Monday. Coincidentally, a San Fernando Superior Court jury on the same day convicted Ricky Lee Earp, 29, of Palmdale of murder in an almost identical death three years ago.
In the latest case, Patalsky, who had been baby-sitting Brianna Lee Schmidt, rushed to a neighbor's house Saturday afternoon with the infant, who had stopped breathing. The baby was taken to Antelope Valley Hospital Medical Center by ambulance but was pronounced dead about 4 p.m.
Doctors there concluded she had been raped and sodomized shortly before death.
According to court records, Patalsky at first denied doing anything to cause the infant's death. Later, he told sheriff's deputies he put his hand over her mouth for five or six seconds to stop her from crying. But he steadfastly denied sexually assaulting her.
However, Patalsky conceded to investigators that he was the only adult home with the infant after her mother and Patalsky's mother left.
After his arrest early Sunday, deputies said they spotted blood on Patalsky's penis as he changed into a jail uniform. He told them it came from intercourse with his girlfriend, according to Sheriff's Department records.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert Foltz said Tuesday that the coroner's office had concluded the infant girl died from a brain injury caused by violent shaking. Because the death occurred as part of an alleged sexual assault, Patalsky could face life in prison or the death penalty, Foltz said.
The alleged assault occurred at the east Lancaster home shared by Patalsky; 20-year-old Renate M. Schmidt, the infant's mother and his girlfriend in recent months; Patalsky's mother and stepfather; and Patalsky's two sons, ages 4 and 5.
The two boys were taken into custody by county children's services workers.