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Ventura County

Prosecutor Closes With Autopsy Photos of Baby

February 14, 2003|Sandra Murillo | Times Staff Writer

As jurors wept over the gory photos of a 14-month-old boy who was tortured to death, his alleged killer looked down and scribbled on paper during closing arguments in his murder trial in Ventura County Superior Court on Thursday.

Patrick Santillano, 34, a heroin dealer and addict accused of killing Demitri Robledo, chose not to attend court the last time prosecutors showed the infant's autopsy photos.

But on Thursday, all Santillano could do was look away as Deputy Dist. Atty. Cheryl Temple used the pictures to try to convince jurors the defendant was a sadistic liar who inflicted numerous atrocities on the boy and expected his former girlfriend to take the blame.

"He's the one who assaulted him over and over and over," Temple told jurors during her daylong arguments. "For the first time in his life, hold him responsible."

Santillano maintained it was his ex-girlfriend, Teresa Rodriguez, who killed Demitri and that he wasn't even living in the house when the abuse occurred in October 2000. The child was left in the couple's care while his mother was serving time on drug charges.

Santillano accused Rodriguez and her family, who testified that Santillano regularly abused Demitri, of conspiring against him.

He is charged with murder, torture, child abuse causing death, and mayhem in connection with Demitri's death on Oct. 22, 2000. The boy died from a blow to the head.

Santillano faces a life sentence if convicted.

When he was left with the couple in August 2000, Demitri was a healthy boy suffering from nothing but a rash. But in October Rodriguez took him to the hospital after she noticed he had trouble breathing. The boy died an hour later.

Doctors testified the child had suffered from weeks of abuse, including being starved, beaten, gagged, burned and bound.

On Thursday, Temple chipped away at Santillano's story. She cited a number of friends, relatives and acquaintances who could place him in the converted Oxnard garage where Demitri was tortured.

The prosecutor argued that while Rodriguez did nothing to help Demitri, her testimony was trustworthy.

"Teresa's testimony was corroborated in numerous areas," Temple said. "She is just not that smart to make up a story so complicated."

The defense is expected to begin its closing arguments today.

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