BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — The 6-week-old boy had dozens of fractures, mostly to his ribs.
“He had more fractures in his newborn body than days he had been alive,” Deputy District Attorney Janae Knallay said.
Knallay on Monday told jurors the boy’s parents are responsible: the father, Jorge Millan, inflicted the brutal injuries while his mother, Elizabeth Jara, did nothing to protect the child. The rib fractures resulted from squeezing the child, Knallay said.
Millan intended to kill the child, she said, and the method he chose was slow and painful.
The baby, after receiving intensive treatment, eventually recovered.
During her closing argument, Knallay asked the jury to find Millan and Jara guilty of attempted murder, torture and felony child cruelty for the injuries to the boy, and misdemeanor child cruelty in connection with their then-1-year-old daughter, who lived with them in a filthy, cockroach-infested home in Wasco.
Millan, 23, and Jara, 22, were arrested in May 2021 after the baby was taken to a hospital. Each blamed the other for the injuries.
Their respective attorneys on Monday continued to question who actually harmed the baby. Although the prosecution pointed the finger at Millan, his attorney, Monica Bermudez, said it’s just as possible Jara was the abuser.
Regardless, Bermudez said, Millan deserves to be found guilty on the child cruelty charges, either for inflicting the injuries or failing to stop them.
But she said the prosecution failed to prove intent to kill, as required for the attempted murder charge, and the elements — such as taking a sadistic pleasure in inflicting pain — required for the torture charge. She asked for not-guilty verdicts on those charges.
“These injuries were caused out of frustration,” Bermudez told jurors.
Fractures, bruises and burns
The boy, in addition to fractures, had bruises covering his body and burns to his feet that appeared to have been caused by a lighter, according to testimony. The couple’s daughter was uninjured; the boy, Knallay said, had been targeted.
She said the only explanation is that Millan, for whatever reason, hated his son. And his wife, who testified to seeing injuries and hearing the boy scream when Millan went to his crib at night, allowed the abuse to happen, the prosecutor said. X-rays revealed the injuries occurred over a period of weeks; they were in various stages of healing.
“What these defendants did was nothing short of inhumane,” Knallay said.
The couple and their children lived at the home of Millan’s parents, where deputies found dog feces dotting the floors, roaches crawling the walls, a sink overflowing with dirty dishes, exposed wiring and clutter everywhere. Both the son and daughter were placed in protective custody.
In her closing argument, Bermudez said the squalid conditions — where the couple had a tiny room for themselves and their two children — likely played a role in what happened.
“This is a recipe for disaster,” she said. “This is a recipe for stress.”
That’s not an excuse, Bermudez told the jury. But she said it helps explain why the boy was injured. A frustrated parent made a “terrible choice,” she said.
Richard Rivera, the attorney representing Jara, noted his client was the one who took the boy to the hospital. If she had wanted the baby to die, she wouldn’t have gotten him aid, he said, adding there is no evidence she harmed him.
Much was made by the prosecution of Jara’s lack of emotion. Rivera said his client had postpartum depression at the time of her arrest; she wasn’t herself.
Rivera will conclude his closing argument Tuesday morning, after which Knallay will give a rebuttal argument. The case will then go to the jury.