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Ventura County

Baby Was Tortured to Death, D.A. Says

June 12, 2001|ANNA GORMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

An Oxnard drug dealer bound, gagged, starved and beat 14-month-old Ion Demitri Robledo until he collapsed and died, a prosecutor alleged Monday.

"Demitri did not die because he lived in a drug-infested environment," Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Dee Corona said. "He did not die because his parents neglected him. Demitri was cruelly and sadistically tortured."

Corona's comments were part of her opening statement in a preliminary hearing for Patrick Santillano, 32, who is charged with murder and child abuse in Demitri's death. At the end of the hearing in Ventura County Superior Court, a judge will decide if there is enough evidence to send Santillano to trial.

Demitri died Oct. 22 at St. John's Regional Medical Center in Oxnard. An autopsy revealed that the toddler was underweight, had a brain hemorrhage and had died of neglect and physical abuse. Doctors found lesions on his mouth, ears, wrists and ankles, as well as bruises and abrasions from head to toe.

Santillano's girlfriend, Teresa Rodriguez, pleaded guilty last week to voluntary manslaughter in Demitri's death and could be sentenced to up to 12 years and four months in prison. Rodriguez, 21, is expected to take the stand to testify against Santillano later this week.

Defense attorney Steven Powell said his client did not abuse or kill Demitri. "The evidence is going to clearly show that Teresa Rodriguez murdered this baby," he said. "The defendant is being scapegoated."

Demitri was born addicted to methadone on Aug. 6, 1999. When the child's parents separated, his mother, Yvette Robledo, and he moved in with Rodriguez. Shortly after Demitri's first birthday, Yvette Robledo was arrested on a drug charge. She left Demitri in the care of Rodriguez and Santillano, who authorities said both used and sold drugs.

In September, Yvette and David Robledo went to pick up their son, but Santillano lied, saying the baby was with Rodriguez, the prosecutor said. Corona said Santillano hid the baby because he knew he would be arrested if anybody saw the baby's serious injuries.

According to Corona, Santillano hit Demitri numerous times and bound his hands and feet to keep him from touching his cuts and bruises. He also gagged the baby to keep him from crying so Santillano could concentrate on injecting drugs, she added.

On Oct. 22, Santillano told Rodriguez--who was pregnant--to take the boy out for some fresh air. When she noticed he wasn't breathing, she rushed him to St. John's. Then Rodriguez went to another hospital to give birth. She was arrested two days later.

Santillano left for Mexico to stay with his elderly father, but was arrested in February after returning to Oxnard. Patricio Santillano, 84, conceded in court that his memory was faltering, but said his son came to visit him at the beginning of October. His son told him he left his girlfriend at home, he testified, because she was in a mess over "something about a little baby who died on her."

The elder Santillano testified that his son never said he was in trouble. "They're trying to railroad him," he said. "He didn't do nothing."

Since Demitri's death, his parents, Yvette and David Robledo, have each been arrested on drug and theft charges, Corona said. They, too, are expected to testify against Santillano. The preliminary hearing, which is expected to last through Friday, will continue this morning.

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