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Orange County

Father Pleads Not Guilty in Death of Baby Christopher

May 21, 2003|Christine Hanley | Times Staff Writer

A father accused of shaking his baby boy into a coma has pleaded not guilty to murder charges that were filed days after the child was removed from life support and died.

Moises Ibarra, 24, who has been jailed on child-abuse charges since he allegedly beat Christopher in December 2001, was arraigned Monday on charges of murder, assault on a child resulting in death, and endangerment of a child resulting in great bodily harm.

During the brief hearing, Orange County Superior Court Commissioner Cheryl L. Leininger granted a government's request to raise Ibarra's bail from $250,000 to $1 million, rejecting a request by the defense to bar news cameras from future proceedings, and ordered both sides back to court June 18.

Afterward, Assistant Public Defender Dave Dworakowski said his client is innocent. He questioned whether a fair trial is possible, citing several TV interviews during which Christopher's mother implicated the father.

Dworakowski said he was also troubled that murder charges were filed before the coroner's office has determined a cause of death. With last week's autopsy inconclusive and final results possibly weeks away, he said the charges were premature and fueled his concerns about the "spin put on this case."

"I would think the prudent thing for them to do would be to wait for the autopsy results," Dworakowski said.

Orange County Dist. Atty. Tony Rackauckas defended the timing of the new charges, saying that even without a final ruling by the coroner, there was sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Ibarra's actions led to his son's death.

He disputed the notions that the boy could have died from preexisting conditions, natural causes or as a result of something that happened to him while comatose.

"We don't have any reason to wait," Rackauckas said. "The cause of death is what put the baby into the coma."

Christopher Ibarra was 20 months old when he died May 10, after he was taken off the ventilator and feeding tube.

He was 3 months old when he was allegedly beaten, shaken and thrown into his crib in December 2001.

He suffered brain damage and was kept alive for 17 months while his parents engaged in a court battle over his fate.

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