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More Tests Due in Baby's Death

An autopsy on Christopher Ibarra, allegedly beaten by his father, is inconclusive. Orange County could bring a murder charge.

May 13, 2003|H.G.Reza | Times Staff Writer

An autopsy performed Monday on the body of a baby boy who had been on life support most of his short life was inconclusive, and more tests are needed to determine whether 20-month-old Christopher Ibarra was a victim of murder.

The boy's father, Moises Ibarra, is being held at Orange County Jail on suspicion of child abuse and could be charged with murder if authorities determine that the injuries he allegedly inflicted on his son caused his death.

Monday's autopsy by Dr. Richard Fukumoto did not produce the answer, so a neuropathologist will conduct a microscopic study of tissue in an effort to pinpoint the cause of death, said Orange County sheriff's spokesman Jim Amormino.

Life support for Christopher was halted this weekend, endings a months-long fight between the child's father, who wanted life support continued, and the mother, Tamara Sepulveda, who said she wanted to let her comatose son "go to heaven."

Christopher was comatose and connected to a ventilator and feeding tube for 17 months, after he was allegedly shaken by Ibarra and thrown against his crib. Doctors said Christopher suffered severe brain injury and remained in a vegetative state until Saturday morning, when physicians at HealthBridge Children's Rehabilitation Hospital in Orange turned off the machines that were keeping him alive.

Amormino said the child lived for about 15 minutes after life support was withdrawn.

Christopher had been kept alive while his parents fought a legal battle over him. When doctors said he had no chance of recovering and living a normal life, Sepulveda asked that her son be allowed to die.

Ibarra objected and mounted a legal fight to keep Christopher alive. His attorneys said he was hoping for a miracle recovery.

Orange County Superior Court Judge Richard E. Behn ordered doctors to pull the plug on life support but stayed the order so Ibarra could appeal. The state 4th District Court of Appeal ordered in February that Christopher be removed from life support and wished him "peace and serenity." In April, the state Supreme Court refused to intervene in the case, clearing the way for hospital officials to act.

Amormino said it will be a month or so before authorities learn whether the second pathologist can determine the cause of death by reviewing the autopsy results.

"A child is dead, and it's important that we find out why," Amormino said. "We're hoping that the new microscopic exams will give us an answer."

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