EL CAJON, Calif. — The parents of a 4-month-old boy who died after being left in a hot car for 14 hours outside their El Cajon apartment failed in their duty to care for him, a prosecutor told a jury Wednesday.
Israel Soto, 32, and Jessica Quezada, 24, are charged with child endangerment in the July 2013 death of Giovanni Soto, and she additionally faces drug charges.
Deputy District Attorney Carlos Campbell said the infant was “completely abandoned” as his parents slept in the morning of July 27, 2013. Authorities said the baby’s body temperature was 107 degrees when he was discovered.
“He (Giovanni) died because his parents did nothing, and had a duty to do everything,” the prosecutor said in his opening statement. “This is not a tragic accident. This could have been avoided.”
Campbell said the defendants, along with Quezada’s brother and his girlfriend, arrived home to their apartment on North Mollison Avenue about 10:30 p.m. on July 26.
The four adults had gone shopping at Walmart because Soto, Quezada and their four young children had moved into the apartment a week earlier, Campbell said.
Quezada’s brother closed the back door to the parents’ car before coming inside, and neither Soto nor Quezada checked on the baby, despite the fact that Quezada and her brother smoked marijuana 6 feet away from the car, Campbell alleged.
The next day, Quezada was awake for 30 minutes before asking about her baby’s whereabouts, according to the prosecutor.
Campbell said Quezada’s brother found his nephew unresponsive in a hot car, and Giovanni died despite efforts to revive him.
Officers later found methamphetamine in Quezada’s purse and she had meth in her system at the time, Campbell told the jury.
Quezada’s attorney, Bart Sheela, said leaving the baby in the car was not an intentional act by the defendants.
“They were careless,” Sheela said. “They were good parents.”
Sheela said that once home from Walmart, Quezada looked out and saw the car door closed and assumed Giovanni had been brought into the apartment.
After getting in bed, Quezada felt what she thought was her child and went to sleep, Sheela told the jury.
“It is inconceivable that he’s (the baby) still in the car,” the attorney said.
Soto’s attorney, Kathleen Lee, said Soto and Quezada loved their children and cared about them.
Lee said Soto never realized Giovanni was not in the apartment. The next day, when others alerted Soto that Giovanni was found in the car unresponsive, “it was complete and utter hysterics,” Lee told the jury.
“His (Giovanni’s) parents didn’t commit a crime. They made a mistake,” Lee told the jury.
Both defendants face up to 12 years in prison if convicted.