UPDATE: Kaleb Kessinger was found guilty of murder Tuesday in the 2018 killing of his then-girlfriend’s 2-year-old son.
Kessinger, 22, was found guilty of first-degree murder, assault on a child under 8 causing death, recklessly evading a peace officer and resisting arrest. He faces up to 43 years to life in prison for the killing of Ramon Angel Reyes-Chavez, a prosecutor said.
“It’s clear that (the jury) listened to the evidence and followed the law,” prosecutor Courtney Lewis said afterward. “It’s a great day for justice for little Ramon.”
Kessinger showed no reaction as the verdicts were read. A family member broke down sobbing as she left the courtroom. She walked out of the courthouse with the assistance of two others.
Kessinger’s attorney, David A. Torres, said he’s disappointed with the outcome. Whenever injuries or death to a child are involved it makes a case difficult for a jury, he said, and sometimes jurors take the case personally.
Torres maintained the testimony of Ayled Chavez, Kessinger’s ex and Ramon’s mother, could not be trusted. He said a “cold, callous individual,” which is how he described Chavez during Monday’s closing arguments, is capable of killing a child.
“This young lady had nothing to deliver but lies,” he said. “One could tell from her demeanor, one could tell just from the lack of emotion, the pain.”
Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 30.
17 News will have the full story on the verdict tonight at 5 p.m.
BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Kaleb Kessinger brutally beat his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son then buried him in a shallow grave “like an animal” before washing clothes in an attempt to destroy evidence and leading police on a high-speed chase, a Kern prosecutor said.
Every action by the 22-year-old showed evidence of guilt as he tried to cover up what he’d done, Courtney Lewis told the jury during her closing argument Monday. She asked jurors to return guilty verdicts on all charges, including first-degree murder and assault on a child under 8 resulting in death.
Kessinger’s attorney, however, said it’s important to take into account the liabilities of some of the witnesses — most importantly, those of Ayled Chavez, the slain boy’s mother. David A. Torres asked the jury to consider whether Chavez’s testimony painting herself as a victim is reliable, or whether she’s a cold and calculating liar who killed her son then blamed Kessinger, her then-boyfriend.
Kessinger and Chavez were initially both arrested on suspicion of killing Chavez’s son, Ramon Angel Reyes-Chavez, and burying his body at Democrat Hot Springs. Kessinger was not the child’s father.
Chavez accepted a plea deal, was sentenced to two years in prison and agreed to testify at trial. She was the first witness called when the trial began Aug. 18.
On April 24, 2018, Chavez left Ramon in the care of Kessinger, whom she had been dating for about two months. When Kessinger later picked her up, he told her he accidentally hit Ramon’s head with a car door. He took her back to his house but refused to let her turn on a bedroom light to examine the child, and they got into an argument where Kessinger threatened her, Lewis said.
Eventually, Chavez turned on the light and saw the severity of the injuries to Ramon. She begged Kessinger to take him to a hospital, and he refused, Lewis said. He eventually relented, but not before getting Chavez to promise to lie about what had happened, the prosecutor told the jury.
Ramon died while they were on their way to the hospital. They returned to Kessinger’s house, then later drove to Democrat Hot Springs and buried the boy.
Kessinger told Chavez to come up with a story about what had happened to Ramon, Lewis said. He threatened to kill Chavez’s 2-year-old niece and the rest of her family if she didn’t obey him, Lewis said.
Chavez had reason to be afraid, according to the prosecutor. Chavez testified Kessinger had been violent toward her in the past, slapping her and dragging her by her hair. She knew he was capable of violence and that he owned guns.
In fear for her and her family’s safety, Chavez went along with Kessinger’s wishes and called 911 while she was on Union Avenue to report Ramon had been kidnapped. It didn’t take investigators long to find discrepancies in her story, and she eventually told them the truth, Lewis said.
Kessinger sped away as police arrived at his house on Nighthawk Lane in northwest Bakersfield. He crashed and ran from the car, managing to avoid capture until police tracked him down at the Travelodge on Oak Street. There, Lewis said, he resisted arrest and officers were forced to use a taser to take him into custody.
The prosecutor said Kessinger’s claim that he accidentally injured Ramon by hitting him with a car door was ridiculous. The evidence, including blood on a wall, carpet and pillow, shows the child was injured inside Kessinger’s house. It also shows the injuries were no accident, Lewis said.
A pathologist testified Ramon died as a result of multiple impacts to the head. The child was struck repeatedly with a “significant amount of force” on the front, back and sides of his head.
“These injuries show a clear intent to kill Ramon,” Lewis said.
Torres began his closing argument by quoting a proverb: “A lie runs until it is taken over by the truth.” He said there were many lies in this case, especially from Chavez.
He said Chavez is a pathological liar with no conception of the truth, and she tells people what they want to hear. She didn’t cry when telling detectives about her son’s death, and investigators said she was cool, calm and collected when recounting the events of the evening of Ramon’s death, Torres said.
Chavez got away with murder, the attorney said, and Kessinger is taking the blame. Torres said she wanted Ramon out of the way so she could change her lifestyle and pursue stripping as a way of earning what she hoped would be big money.
“Is she manipulative?” Torres asked the jury. “Yes. Is she a monster? Yes. Is she a liar? Oh, heck yes.”
He asked the jury to not rush to judgment and to analyze the evidence and return not guilty verdicts on the murder and assault charges.
The jury deliberated for about an hour following closing arguments and will resume deliberations Tuesday morning.