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D.A. Charges Stepfather in Girl's Death

September 02, 1999|LOUISE ROUG | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

Prosecutors filed charges Wednesday that could mean life in prison for a Santa Ana man accused of fatally beating his 5-year-old stepdaughter.

Bruce Alan Morton, 28, was charged with assault on a child under 8 years old causing death, Deputy Dist. Atty. Elizabeth Henderson said. If convicted, he would face 25 years to life in prison, she said, a more severe penalty than second-degree murder, which has a maximum term of 15 years to life.

Prosecutors still may file a murder charge, depending on autopsy results and an ongoing police investigation.

"There has to be proven malice," Henderson said. "It's not a murder charge yet. We have to determine if there has been abuse over a period of time to determine intent."

The girl, Katya Jensen, died Tuesday after doctors at UCI Medical Center in Orange removed her from life support systems, officials said.

Police are not releasing autopsy results until the investigation is complete, said Sgt. Raul Luna, a spokesman for the Santa Ana Police Department. "We're not looking to convict someone, we're just looking for the facts."

Officers responding to a 911 call Monday found the bruised and unconscious girl at her home. Morton, who had placed the call, was later arrested on suspicion of felony child abuse.

The girl's mother, 27-year-old Sandy Morton, was at work when police came to the home. She has not been charged, Luna said. The couple's 10-month-old daughter is in protective custody, he said.

Bruce Alan Morton appeared in court Wednesday but will not be arraigned until Sept. 12 to allow for the assignment of a public defender. He is being held at Orange County Jail on $250,000 bail.

Investigators asked Wednesday that anyone with information about the case contact the Santa Ana Police Department at (714) 245-8308.

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