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McMinnville teen held responsible for conduct in toddler's death

Nov 2, 2012 | 8 Comments


By Paul Daquilante
Of the News-Register


UPDATE:

Judge Ronald Stone ruled Friday morning in favor of the prosecution in in the criminally negligent homicide trial of 13-year-old Alfredo Valeriano Jr. of McMinnville.

He was tried in connection with the Oct. 3, 2011 death of 16-month-old Aayden Cantu.

The terms "convicted" and "sentenced" are not used in juvenile cases. The verdict places Valeriano under jurisdiction of the Yamhill County Juvenile Court.

He was placed on 60 months probation and ordered to serve 15 days in the juvenile facility. With credit for time served, he has completed that term. However, he was ordered to serve an additional 30 days.

Valeriano will receive a mental health evaluation, undergo treatment if it is recommended and those reports will be forwarded to his probation officer. He is currently undergoing mental health counseling.

The teen is prohibited from having unsupervised conduct with minors unless approved by his probation officer. He is currently living with his biological father, Alberto Valeriano Sr., and there are no other children in the home.

He was fined $200 and ordered to pay what Stone called "reasonable restitution" in the amount of about $4,500. There is a 60-day window for the state to determine an accurate figure.

Stone waived Valeriano's court-appointed attorney fees which amount to thousands of dollars. Carol Fredrick of McMinnville represented him.

"We demand an explanation when a child dies," Stone said in delivering his decision. "It cries for justice. This was not an act of God but of criminal negligence."

Stone later said, "I have come to the conclusion that he did not intend to hurt Aayden, but I am holding him responsible."

Valeriano made a brief statement but spoke in such a low tone of voice that what he said was barely audible.

"There's a debt that you will never be able to repay," Stone told him. "One way of repaying it is by being a good man."

Stone said one thing that troubled him during the weeklong trial was the fact Valeriano showed no emotion during any of the testimony that was given.

Aayden's father, Roberto Cantu of Dayton, testified Tuesday but did not return to the trial any other day. Deputy District Attorney Lisl Miller explained he did not want to hear any of the evidence by way of testimony that was presented. He did not want to be present for the verdict, according to Miller.

"He did what he had to do (testify), and after that, he felt it was out of his hands," Miller said.

Stone praised the work of both Fredrick and Miller in preparing for the trial and presenting their cases.

See Tuesday's print edition for additional details.

— — —

Alfredo Valeriano Jr. took the witness stand Thursday as his trial on one count of criminally negligent homicide wrapped up its fourth day in Yamhill County Circuit Court. Judge Ronald Stone is hearing the bench trial.

He was the first defense witness called by court-appointed attorney Carol Fredrick after Deputy District Attorney Lisl Miller said the state was ready to rest its case.

Valeriano, 13, was in the seventh grade at Duniway Middle School in McMinnville when he was charged by McMinnville police in connection with the Oct. 3, 2011 death of 16-month-old Aayden Cantu.

Aayden, who sustained multiple skull fractures, was first taken to the McMinnville Immediate Health Care facility on Northeast 19th Street. The staff there called 911 to summon an ambulance that rushed him to the Willamette Valley Medical Center were he was pronounced dead following extensive life-saving measures by the health care and hospital emergency room staffs.

State Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Clifford Nelson conducted an autopsy on Aayden and testified the cause of death was blunt force head trauma and the manner of death was homicide. McMinnville Police Detective Toby Carver, who doubles as a medical examiner for Yamhill County, testified to the same cause and manner of death.

The incident occurred at 1355 N.W. Second St., No. 21, the McMinnville residence where Valeriano lived with his stepfather, Felimon Garcia-Reyes, his biological mother, Asucena Ruiz-Larita, and two young siblings. Garcia, who currently is lodged in jail, and Ruiz both testified for the state.

A friend, Roberto Cantu, who now lives in Dayton, moved in a few months earlier with Garcia and his three children. No adults were present at the time of the incident.

Valeriano had babysat his siblings, as well as Cantu’s children, in the past. On this occasion, Cantu asked the boy to watch some of the children when he went to WinCo for groceries.

Before resting the state's case, Miller called 17 witnesses, in addition to playing an audio only recorded interview Carver conducted with Valeriano and an audio and video recorded interview that Carver and detective Michelle Formway conducted with the teen.

It was during the audio and video interview that Valeriano demonstrated how Aayden and his little sister were squabbling on the living room floor. His sister wanted to hug Aayden, who did not want to be hugged, and that touched off a tussle between the children. Valeriano admitted the squabbling "kind of made me mad." He said he was frustrated.

He said he went over to the two, picked up his sister with his right arm and, with the palm of his left hand, he hit Aayden on top of his head. Valeriano said Aayden stood up, walked over to a corner of the room, stood there for about a minute and then walked over to where a futon was sitting. He leaned over and put his head on the piece of furniture.

That's when Valeriano said he picked Aayden up and laid him on the futon where other children he was watching would soon be resting. Shortly thereafter, he said he heard Aayden making noises, and they were gurgling sounds, based on a demonstration he gave.

Later, Valeriano's stepfather, Garcia, who had come home from work, and Aayden's father, who has returned from the store, decided to seek medical attention for the toddler because he was acting in an unresponsive manner.

Valeriano appeared calm on the witness stand. He never displayed any signs of emotion during questioning from Fredrick or Miller.

He told Fredrick he "kind of felt comfortable" babysitting the kids. However, he would get tired.

Valeriano said he told Aayden and his sister to stop fighting, and that's how the activity that the two were engaged in has been described during the trial. He said he does not think he hit Aayden hard on the top of his head and he did not plan to him hard.

The teen punched a door at home so hard once that it left a gouge in it, and the mark on the door could be seen during the video interview. Valeriano also admitted hitting a wall at home in the past.

"Did you hit Aayden as hard as you hit the door and the wall?" Fredrick asked him. "Maybe," was Valeriano's response.

On cross-examination by Miller, he admitted hitting one of his sisters once before when he thought she was misbehaving.

Valeriano told Miller that he knew someone could get hurt by being hit and he said he knows it isn't right to hit someone else. He said he didn't realize someone could died if they were hit hard enough in the head.

"Isn't it true that you told detective Formway that this (hitting Aayden) was not an accident?" Miller asked him. "I don't remember that." he said.

Miller continued, "What is it today?" He replied that it was an accident.

On re-direct examination by Fredrick, she asked Valeriano if he liked Aayden, and he replied that he did.

Duniway Middle School Assistant Principal Lysha Wasser testified for the defense following the teen. He said he focused largely on language development last year, and helped construct an Individual Education Program for Valeriano. Wasser described him as a "model student," who understands right from wrong and the consequences of his actions.

The defense rested following Wasser's testimony.

 

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Comments

05:58 pm - Fri, November 2 2012
Manup said:
Disgusted. What about all the adults in the situation that continually left several small children in the care of a child? Prosecute those b*******! While I understand that the boy needs to understand and be held accountable, did he really do anything different from other siblings? WHERE WHERE THE ADULTS AND WHY AREN'T THEY BEING HELD ACCOUNTABLE?
11:56 pm - Fri, November 2 2012
TheDude said:
Unfortunately in this case, it was all about what this young man did. The family has really paid a huge price for having left the younger child in someone's care that wasn't mentally equipped for the situation. It's extremely sad for everyone involved and I hope to god that this kid gets the help he needs. The part about him showing no emotion, you can chalk up to being young and in today's society extremely immature due to the way children are handled. That is so sad. Parents need to rely less on tv as a babysitter and teach reality!! So sad...
03:52 pm - Mon, November 5 2012
Roxy said:
@ manup "...did he really do anything different from other siblings?" YES, he killed a chiled by hitting him on the head hard enough to break his skull....I have 10 siblings, none of them ever did that.


I agree that adults need to be held responsible though, 13 is not old enough to care for multiple kids, it can get frustrating and even some adults lose patience, but this kid apparently had anger management issues and the adults should have recognized that, a very tragic story, and honestly if it were me, I would leave the kid in jail a bit longer and then have community service for a couple of years - keep him so busy and remind him of what he did so that he will never want to do it again.
09:10 am - Tue, November 6 2012
Karmatime said:
okay. I believe that this "child" should bear some responsibility in this..however..I also believe the parents (both ADULT men) should bear MOST of the responsibility..maybe it is just me, but when you choose to have children you attend to them. If you have to drag your butt to the grocery store, you take your children with you!! Especially if the option is a 13 year old boy left to babysitt..my god..in the case of an emergency situation and obviously a language barrier you you feel that the most important life you created should be left in the care of a 13 year old boy!!! Get real!!! Not to even mention, that if in the fact that this boy has "anger issues" I can safely say that could just be a product of his environment. I know of alot of "men" that treat their children the exact same way. This whole case is very sad...but please people do not make any mistake..the 13 year old should NOT have been placed in this situation.what he did was wrong yes...but the "GROWN MEN" that placed him in that situation..just WRONG!!

Honestly..the legal system could use some work! I believe in karma, and I fully believe that there are several victims here..but they are all children in THIS case...I cannot feel sorry for the parents..life is about choices..hopefully in the future they will take better care of their children.
09:27 am - Tue, November 6 2012
Roxy said:
I can't believe the mother of the Cantu kids just abandoned them...mothers in the wild care more about their kids than that woman - she not only left roberto with their own kids, she left one that wasn't even his, i think roberto tried to do the right thing with his kids but as many men, no offense, he didn't think things through, i know he struggled with finding a place to live, proper child care after the woman left, he was unable to get or hold down a job for a while because he couldn't work all hours needed for his job and take care of the kids so it's really a sad situation, they all bear some responsibility but loosing your kid is more punishment than anyone deserves.
10:23 am - Tue, November 6 2012
Manup said:
@Roxy "YES, he killed a chiled by hitting him on the head hard enough to break his skull"

First of all, an infant/toddlers skull is not as hard as yours, while it would take a substantial blow to kill you, it wouldn't take much to harm a child so young. So yes, essentially what he did was no different than any other sibling. You are blessed to have escaped childhood without the scorn of siblings, however, many children are at the mercy of their older siblings. Some days they all get along well, other days- not so much. My father and his siblings were hiking one day when one of them went up ahead around a bend. When the others got to the same place they couldn't understand how he had gotten all the way down the ridge and was tricking them by laying down at the base, so they threw rocks at him, but noticed he didn't move when the rocks hit. They eventually figured out he had fallen and quit throwing rocks. He was okay, but the point is, siblings do stupid things. My husband was shot by his older brother, he was 7 and his brother was nine. Both old enough to know not to touch a weapon, yet stupid enough at that age to do it. His knee was blown away, his little sister who was six had to run a mile or so to the nearest neighbor to get help. He crawled out to the porch before the blood loss was too great, his older brother doing what he can to stop the bleeding, all the while going over the story they were going to tell so they would all not get in trouble. Parents were off somewhere, and arrived later. No one was charged. Brother didn't go to juvy, parents didn't get arrested for neglect, only my husband suffered, for years actually in ways you cant even imagine. Siblings do hurt each other. The point is was there intent to kill the child? I don't believe there was. Yes, he needs to be held responsible, but the adults have some 'splanin to do.
12:17 pm - Tue, November 6 2012
Roxy said:
I know that Manup, but a skull of a 16 month old still requires a hard blow to cause a fatal injury - and if you have been following this, the kid admitted that he "maybe" hit the baby as hard as he hit the wall he made a hole in to. Most 12-13 year olds don't punch or strike babies in the head like that.

i never said my siblings never hurt me, they did, i am one of the youngest, they would spank me, but NEVER hit me on the head, a 13 year old should know that the head is a delicate place to hit someone, especially a baby!

I have agreed all along that the parents do have large liability in what happened.

08:56 am - Thu, November 8 2012
OldEditor said:
You have to pass state tests and get licenses to drive a taxi, paint a house, cut hair or manicure toe nails, but the most important job in the world -- parenting -- requires only a working penis and uterus.
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