EL CAJON, Calif. — A man who beat his girlfriend’s 7-month-old son to death was sentenced Friday to 25 years to life in state prison.
During Friday’s sentencing hearing, defense attorney Michael Begovich asked Judge Herbert Exarhos to act as a 13th juror and impose a penalty that would have been given with a lesser offense.
Exarhos denied the request, calling Cruz’s actions “nothing short of torture,” adding that the defendant showed “indifference and perhaps hatred toward the baby,” whom he “basically treated like a soccer ball.”
“Were I to sit as a 13th juror, I could not disagree with the findings and the verdict of the 12,” Exarhos said.
Grasso said Cruz would be eligible for parole only after he serves a full 25-year prison sentence.
Deputy District Attorney Claudia Grasso told jurors that Cruz beat the baby because he wouldn’t stop fussing while the defendant was watching him.
Cruz — who met the baby’s mother in January 2011 after she broke up with the child’s father — became the infant’s full-time caretaker because he was unemployed, the prosecutor said.
One day in early March 2011, the mother said the baby rolled off the bed and suffered bruises on his cheeks as she was getting ready to go to her job in the Navy, Grasso said. The bruising faded, but she noticed fresh bruises on her son’s face the next week and the week after, the prosecutor said.
About 11:30 a.m. on March 18, 2011, after the baby’s mother left for work, the defendant ran out of the couple’s apartment with the unconscious child wrapped in a towel, Grasso said.
The child was taken to Rady Children’s Hospital, where he died a few days later after being taken off life support. He had brain swelling, skull hemorrhages and a number of healing fractured ribs, Grasso said.
In a police interview, Cruz admitted slapping the baby, but said he did it because the child wouldn’t stop fussing, according to Grasso.
Begovich argued the child’s mother was responsible for her son’s death because she failed to take him to the doctor for four days after he developed a middle ear infection.
Begovich said the baby was going “downhill” when he went into cardiac arrest on March 18, 2011.
The attorney said his client admitted shaking the infant to revive him, “but shaking the baby to kill it? No.”