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Santa Ana Man Is Jailed After His Baby Dies

November 20, 1994|TRACY WEBER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SANTA ANA — Police arrested a Santa Ana man on suspicion of killing his 8-month-old daughter in the rented room where his family lived after the infant was found not breathing, police said.

Jorge Perez, 34, was arrested after giving police inconsistent accounts of what happened to the baby, Santa Ana Police Sgt. Ed Andrade said.

Andrade said officers went to a house in the 600 block of Borchard Avenue on Friday afternoon after receiving a 911 call from someone at the residence that a baby had stopped breathing.

The department's child abuse investigators were called when the baby, Kenya Perez, died upon arrival at a local hospital, Andrade said. Investigators arrested Jorge Perez at the home shortly afterward, he said, adding that he did not know the details of the father's statements.

But relatives and roommates of the Perez family said Saturday that Kenya accidentally suffocated while her father slept and that Jorge Perez never could have killed the infant daughter he loved.

"He's a good person," said his nephew Antonio Perez, 22, as he stood outside his home across the street from where Perez lived. "It's an accident. He worked every night and came home very morning. He sleeps so hard. He couldn't hear the baby cry."

Joe Ortuno, 17, said Perez, his wife, Clarissa, and daughters Marybelle, 8, and Kenya had been renting a room in his mother's three-bedroom house for about 2 1/2-months.

Jorge Perez worked the night shift printing advertising circulars at a plant in Garden Grove, leaving for work about 9:30 and arriving home about 7 a.m., family members said. At 1 p.m., he would take his wife to work at the same place and return to watch his daughters in the afternoon.

Ortuno said he had just arrived home from school about 3:15 p.m. on Friday when he heard Jorge Perez calling "Baby doll, my baby doll" in Spanish in the bedroom his family lived in.

"I thought he was playing with his daughter," Ortuno said. "But he kept saying it over and over, louder and louder."

Ortuno said Perez came out of the bedroom and asked to speak to the boyfriend of Ortuno's mother, who was asleep in another room. Perez woke up the other man and said, "My daughter's not breathing, she fell in the bucket when I was asleep."

Perez told the two that he woke up to find his daughter face-first in a five-gallon bucket kept by the side of the bed for trash, Ortuno said. The baby's feet were sticking in the air and her face was smashed against the bucket's bottom, Ortuno said Perez had told them. When he lifted his daughter out, she was not breathing, according to Ortuno.

Ortuno said when he went into the room, Kenya was lying on the bed and her lips were blue. He picked her up and carried her into the kitchen to call 911, he said.

"I was holding the girl and I laid her on the ground and called police," Ortuno said, demonstrating how he held the baby.

Ortuno said he didn't know the family well, but that Perez was always tired, usually getting as little as three hours sleep a day. "He was playing with those kids all the time," Ortuno said.

If he needed to sleep in the afternoon, the father usually took Kenya to be watched by a relative in the neighborhood, Ortuno said. "This time he fell asleep and didn't take her," he said.

A neighbor, who asked that his name not be used, said Perez had come to ask him where to find a good mechanic a few hours before Kenya's death on Friday. The neighbor said Perez kept excusing himself during the conversation to check on the baby, who was asleep in the family's truck.

"He said, I have a baby in the car and I'm afraid she'll fall down," said the neighbor, adding that Perez seemed to genuinely care for his daughter.

Saturday afternoon, while neighbors discussed the tragedy, Clarissa Perez and other family members were out trying to raise money to bail out her husband.

Andrade said the cause of death won't be known until the results of an autopsy performed Saturday are analyzed. Perez was booked into the Santa Ana city jail on suspicion of murder and was being held Saturday in lieu of $250,000 bail.

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