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Father to Face Trial in Death of Infant

Hearing: Simi Valley man is accused of shaking his 10-week-old son so violently that the boy's brain swelled.

July 17, 2001|TINA DIRMANN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Discounting an attempt to blame a 2-year-old in the death of his 10-week-old brother, a judge has ordered a Simi Valley man to stand trial on charges of shaking his infant son to death.

Brian Trelatsky, 25, is charged with child abuse causing death for allegedly shaking his son so violently that he caused the boy's brain to swell and hemorrhaging around the brain. The boy was taken to a Simi Valley hospital after he lost consciousness, and was pronounced dead the next day.

At Trelatsky's preliminary hearing, Judge Edward Brodie discounted a defense attorney's questions that suggested that the infant's 2-year-old brother caused some of the injuries to Tyler Trelatsky. Responding to the defense's argument, Deputy Dist. Atty. Dee Corona said outside court: "I've heard of killer 2-year-olds before, but I've never seen one."

Monday's hearing concluded with testimony from Janice Frank, a medical examiner who performed an autopsy on Tyler. Frank testified that the infant had bruises on his forehead, that his brain was swollen, and that he had hemorrhaging around his brain.

The infant also had several rib fractures in various stages of healing, Frank testified. Some appeared to be new injuries that had occurred as recently as two days before the autopsy; others seemed as old as four weeks, Frank said.

The rib injuries could be expected if a parent were "grasping the child around the chest and shaking the child violently," Frank testified.

Although she noted that some of the injuries could have been caused during life-saving procedures, she said she did not believe that was how they occurred.

"I think, given all I've seen, that the injuries were sustained as a result of either violent shaking or an impact [to the head] or a combination of the two," Frank said.

Picking up on a theme from earlier in the hearing, defense attorney Todd Howeth asked Frank if the injuries could have been caused by another child. Under questioning last week, Tyler's mother, Catherine Trelatsky, said her 2-year-old son sometimes pulled and poked at his baby brother, once picking him up and once jumping on him.

But Frank said she did not think a small child was capable of inflicting the kind of extensive bleeding and brain swelling suffered by Tyler.

Brian Trelatsky was the stay-at-home caretaker of Tyler and his older brother, Scottie, while his wife worked to support the family.

She testified that her husband called her at work the afternoon of March 27, 2000, to say that Tyler was not breathing. After telling her husband to call 911, she rushed home.

Paramedics arrived at the couple's Simi Valley mobile home to find Tyler lying unattended on a coffee table, unconscious, authorities said. He was rushed to Simi Valley Hospital but never regained consciousness. He was declared brain-dead the next day and taken off life support.

During the three days of testimony in the case, Catherine Trelatsky called her husband a loving father, but acknowledged that she sometimes found bruises and scratches on the infant. She also said her older son was jealous of his baby brother and sometimes slapped at the infant. She described Tyler as an ill child who occasionally had trouble breathing.

Brian Trelatsky will return to court July 30 to enter a plea. If convicted, he faces 25 years to life in prison.

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