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VENTURA COUNTY NEWS

Oxnard Police Detail Abuse Allegations in Baby's Death

Probe: Report says the infant had facial bruises and had ingested narcotics. Caregiver faces murder and child-neglect charges.

November 03, 2000|TIMOTHY HUGHES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

On the night his 14-month-old body gave out, Ion Demitri Robledo had dark bruises on his face, a 91-degree temperature, red marks on his ankles and the symptoms of a child who had recently ingested illegal narcotics, police records show.

Details of alleged abuse are outlined in a document Oxnard detectives filed with the court to obtain a search warrant two days after the boy was pronounced dead Oct. 22 at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard. The infant's caregiver, 20-year-old Teresa Rodriguez, faces arraignment Monday on murder and child-neglect charges. She is being held on $1-million bail at Ventura County Jail.

According to court records, autopsy results showed the infant had severe constipation, which police said is consistent with heroin use. Upon searching Rodriguez's apartment, investigators found syringes and spoons that police said were most likely used for cooking drugs, as well as scales and other narcotics paraphernalia.

The information was obtained after interviews with relatives of Rodriguez and the child as well as from three searches of Rodriguez's south Oxnard home.

A blood test conducted on Rodriguez on Oct. 23--the day she gave birth to her son Patricio and a day after Ion's death--revealed traces of opiates, according to the search warrant. Doctors at Ventura County Medical Center also told investigators that Patricio was born addicted to morphine.

Among the stacks of baby clothes, toys and child development books with such titles as "What to Expect When You're Expecting," and "Dr. Spock's Baby and Child Care," detectives found condoms, fast-food wrappers and vials of Vicodin and Prozac, according to the warrant.

The search warrant documents were filed Wednesday in Ventura County Superior Court.

Rodriguez's mother maintained her daughter's innocence Thursday and said evidence found by investigators at the small McMillan Avenue converted garage did not prove anything.

If anything, Christina Rodriguez said, her daughter's only mistake was agreeing to watch Ion for a few months to help out a friend who was in jail.

"It saddens me a lot that they would come up with all this because I know my daughter would not do this," the mother said. "Everyone I talk to tells me they don't believe it. Teresa should not have taken this on herself."

Teresa Rodriguez's residence was locked and apparently vacant Thursday. Near the front door, a large pile of clothes, kitchen appliances and baby toys was strewn about.

According to the search warrant, Teresa Rodriguez told investigators the child's diet consisted mainly of fast food from restaurants such as Taco Bell, McDonald's and Wendy's. She said she fed the infant at 7 a.m. on Oct. 22 and took a nap at 2 p.m. She said she picked up Ion at 5 p.m and noticed one eye was open, the other was shut and the child appeared dazed. After stopping at a Wendy's restaurant in Port Hueneme, Rodriguez said, she noticed the child was not breathing and she drove to St. John's.

A doctor at the hospital told investigators the infant had lesions on his mouth, ears, wrists and on both ankles.

"The child appeared to suffer from severe neglect,' the court documents stated.

Photos of the emaciated child taken shortly after he was pronounced dead show bruises from head to toe. Toxicology reports on the baby won't be available for several weeks, coroner's officials said.

Although she was nearly 8 months pregnant at the time, Rodriguez agreed to take care of the child while his mother, Yvette Robledo, served time in Ventura County Jail on a drug conviction. Along with her live-in boyfriend, Patrick Santanillo, Rodriguez cared for the 14-month-old along with her 3-year-old daughter.

Thursday, Sgt. Jim Seitz said detectives are still searching for Santanillo to question him, though they have insisted he is not a suspect.

Rodriguez told detectives she never sought medical treatment for the 14-month-old boy even though he had injured his nose in a September fall while his parents visited. The boy's wound later became infected and Rodriguez told investigators she applied ointments but nothing else.

In the days before his death, the infant was vomiting on a regular basis and was bleeding during bowel movements, she said. Rodriguez told detectives she did not seek medical attention.

Bill Rutan, a deputy public defender assigned to the case, said Thursday his office won't represent Rodriguez because of a potential conflict of interest. County public defenders have in the past represented the dead infant's mother in a drug possession case as well as Santanillo on a domestic violence charge.

Instead, an attorney from Conflict Defense Associates, an independent contracted law firm, will represent Rodriguez, Rutan said.

Rutan said he hasn't had many cases as disturbing as this one.

"I have been doing this for 20 years and I can't recall a murder like this," he said.

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