Opening statements made in trial of man accused of torturing, killing 8-month-old Tehachapi boy

Crime Watch

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Left alone to watch his girlfriend’s two young children, Tobin Phillips exchanged frequent messages with the girlfriend while she was at work.

Then the messages stopped. Three hours passed before Phillips contacted her on Facebook with a two-word post: “I’m sorry.”

The girlfriend arrived home to find the bruised, lifeless body of Baron Brian Smith, her 8-month-old son, lying on a futon.

In her opening statement Thursday at Phillip’s murder trial, prosecutor Gina Pearl said Phillips tortured and killed Baron inside a Tehachapi apartment on Jan. 2, 2017. Phillips admitted to killing the child to a doctor who treated him for self-inflicted cuts to his wrists and neck, she said.

“I killed my girlfriend’s son,” Phillips told the doctor according to Pearl. He added that he wasn’t hearing voices or “out of his mind” when he did it.

Pearl told the jury Phillips first shook the boy so hard the child’s head swung back and forth and he suffered bleeding to his eyes. The back of Baron’s head hit a blunt object at least once, resulting in a large bruise, according to the prosecutor.

But that wasn’t enough for Phillips, Pearl said. He followed the shaking by twisting Baron’s left nipple so hard he left a deep fingernail imprint and bruised the boy’s flesh, she said.

Lastly, Pearl said, Phillips strangled the child. An autopsy found it took between three to five minutes for Baron to die, she said. Pearl displayed photographs showing bruising to the child’s head, underneath his neck and other areas as she described his injuries.

Phillips’ attorney, Deputy Public Defender Mark Aguilar, said Baron’s death was unintentional. When interrogated by sheriff’s detectives, Phillips largely accepted responsibility for what happened but said he never meant to kill the child, and he had accidentally smothered him.

In fact, Aguilar said, Phillips spent more than an hour trying to revive the boy. When he was unsuccessful, he left the apartment and walked into the mountains before showing up bloodied with self-inflicted wounds at a Fastrip where authorities were called.

At the time of Baron’s death, Phillips was supposed to be in Washington state awaiting trial for allegedly assaulting his 21-day-old daughter he had with his then-fiancee. He and that woman broke up, and he moved in with Baron’s mother weeks after the alleged assault of his daughter.

Phillips’ trial is expected to last about a week. He faces life in prison without the possibility of parole if convicted of murder with the special circumstance of torture.

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