Mother admits role in toddler’s beating death

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Judge Gavel

EL CAJON, Calif. — An East County woman whose toddler son died from injuries allegedly inflicted by her live-in boyfriend pleaded guilty Wednesday to felony child endangerment.

Renee Fournier, 29, is free on $100,000 bail pending sentencing on Sept. 12.

Fournier was arrested in late January in connection with the death of 19- month-old Lucas Orlando at an apartment on Arnold Way in Alpine.

About 1:45 p.m. on Jan. 11, deputies responding to an emergency at Fournier’s rental residence found her son gravely injured, said sheriff’s Lt. Kenneth Nelson. Her boyfriend, 30-year-old Navy corpsman Brett Brown, told deputies Lucas had been hurt in a fall. Fournier was at work at the time, authorities said.

Brown had been watching the boy that day along with his girlfriend’s other child and two of his own from a former relationship, according to Nelson. Paramedics took Lucas to Rady Children’s Hospital, where he died two days later.

Detectives investigating the fatality determined that the trauma the boy suffered was too severe to have occurred as Brown described it, the lieutenant said.

Brown — who was on military leave at the time of the child’s death — was arrested Jan. 14 at a Shelter Island hotel and pleaded not guilty to murder and child abuse charges.

During a court hearing today, Brown was arraigned on an amended complaint charging him with murder and a special circumstance of torture and animal cruelty, said Deputy District Attorney Chantal de Mauregne.

At an earlier hearing, the prosecutor told a judge that the victim had multiple skull fractures and two broken bones — one each in an arm and a leg — that had been healing. The toddler also had bruising on his body, the prosecutor said.

Brown will be back in court July 27 for a readiness conference and Aug. 24 for a preliminary hearing.