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Foster father faces July 22 trial in baby's death

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on Sun, 06/02/2013 - 23:05
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Foster father faces July 22 trial in baby's death

Ukiah Daily Journal

A Fort Bragg man accused of beating a 5-month-old baby girl to death in December while she was in his care has been scheduled for a July 22 trial in Mendocino County Superior Court.

Wilson L. "Josh" Tubbs III, 38, the baby's foster father, faces a charge of child abuse resulting in death, which carries the same weight as murder, according to the Mendocino County District Attorney's Office.

Judge John Behnke ordered Tubbs to be bound over for trial after three hours of testimony from three witnesses, including the child abuse specialist who examined baby Emerald Herriet at Oakland Children's Hospital, who testified that the extent of injury to Emerald's head and brain indicated the baby had been abused over a period of time, with traumatic events appearing to have happened around Nov. 2 and Dec. 1, based on medical records.

Tubbs had on Dec. 2 brought the baby girl, who had months earlier been taken from her mother by county Child Welfare Services, to the Mendocino Coast District Hospital not breathing and blue, and with bruises on her face and head.

The 49 or more bruises found on the baby's head and face during her autopsy, along with two skull fractures, multiple hemorrhages in her retinas and severe subdural hematoma -- the accumulation of blood between the brain's surface and inside of the skull -- could have been several months old, according to testimony from Dr. Rachel Gilgoff, a pediatrician specializing in child abuse.

injuries appeared to have been caused by a combination of blunt force trauma and shaking, Gilgoff testified. Public Defender Linda Thompson said the baby's regular pediatrician noted the infant was a "shaken baby," and that subsequent rough treatment from Tubbs would not have otherwise been an issue.

According to county records, the infant was taken from her mother June 28 after a roommate reported that the mother left after a verbal fight during which, according to the roommate, the mother held Emerald on her hip and the baby's head was "basically being flung around due to a lack of proper support" while the mother gathered her belongings with her other hand.

Asked if that incident could have caused the brain injuries described, Gilgoff said there is "not enough force" in that kind of motion to cause such severe damage.

"That's not what we worry about when we talk about shaking," she said on the witness stand, adding that injuries as severe as Emerald's are typically caused when "someone loses it in anger and shakes the baby. If you saw someone do it to the extent where it could cause subdural hematoma and brain injury, you'd freak out."

Tubbs initially claimed the infant was injured when she fell from a changing bench onto a hardwood floor in his house, and later admitted he slapped and violently shook the baby in frustration at her crying, a Fort Bragg Police Department officer and a DA's Office investigator testified.

Responding to Thompson's cross-examination, DA's Office investigator Kevin Bailey testified that Tubbs told authorities baby Emerald bruised easily, and that while he felt "partially" responsible for her death, he also said, "there were underlying issues my wife and I kept trying to address but they kept blowing us off.'"

Prosecutor Paul Sequeira of the DA's Office also procured testimony about stressors in Tubbs' life, including marital strife and unemployment. Tubbs was responsible for Emerald's care during the day while his wife worked, according to witness testimony.

Thompson also questioned Gilgoff about whether the baby could have had hydrocephalus, a condition where an abnormal amount of cerebrospinal fluid accumulates in the brain, causing pressure inside the skull and head enlargement -- or another brain disorder. Gilgoff testified that the baby appeared to be developing normally, based on her medical records, and that there would have been other indicators if brain disorder was an issue.

The baby girl was flown to Oakland Children's Hospital, where she was pronounced dead Dec. 4. Tubbs was arrested Dec. 10 in her death, and remains in custody at the Mendocino County Jail under $500,000 bail.



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LAS CRUCES — A jury convicted a La Mesa man Friday for sexually abusing a then-5-year-old foster daughter starting in 2004, according to a news release from the 3rd Judicial Disrict Attorney's Office.

Martin Lopez, 51, was found guilty of three counts of first-degree criminal sexual penetration and one count of criminal sexual contact of a minor, a second-degree felony. Lopez was charged in 2008.

According to the indictment, Lopez threatened not to feed the girl and her brother if she did not perform the sexual acts.

Third Judicial District Chief Judge Douglas Driggers ordered a $100,000 bond, according to the news release, and Lopez was taken into custody.