Jury order probation in child death case
By Michelle Casady, Guillermo Contreras
SAN ANTONIO — It took jurors just three hours Friday to find Norberto Velasquez guilty for his role in the 2009 death of his 3-year-old adopted daughter, and six more hours to decide that he should receive probation.
The serious bodily injury to a child by omission conviction could have resulted in a sentence of up to life in prison.
Velasquez, 49, was not in court as the punishment verdict was read by state District Judge Angus McGinty late Friday.
In the hours between the guilty verdict and the probation announcement, McGinty had ordered Velasquez taken into custody without bond. But paramedics transferred him from his courthouse holding cell to a downtown hospital — where he remained under guard — after he claimed to be having a medical emergency.
Jurors were not told of the unusual situation.
Velasquez and partner Matthew Oscar Aranda, 48, took Melody in as a foster child after she was removed from her birth parents' home at 3 months old following allegations of abuse. The couple adopted her in December 2008, but the joy was short-lived.
On Jan. 10, 2009, the girl died of blunt head trauma. Velasquez and Aranda told police she had fallen down the stairs, which caused the fatal brain bleeding. Aranda, who was charged with murder, is still awaiting trial.
Pathologist William Robert Anderson, an expert for the defense, told jurors last week that he believed prior injuries caused by Melody's biological father when she was an infant could have weakened the blood vessels in her brain. As a result, a fall that would be considered minor for other children could have seriously injured her, he testified.
“We have a situation where prior trauma created a situation where this child was more prone to suffer a bleed from a lesser impact,” he said.
“That's significant, because if you haven't warned the parents that there's an old subdural hematoma, then any type of injury could be much more serious than it appears,” Anderson continued. “It would be like not telling a foster parent a child has hemophilia.”
Prosecutors Jan Ischy and Daryl Harris argued that regardless of her pre-existing medical conditions, there was no excuse for Velasquez to wait about 30 hours before calling 911.
“He decided not to seek medical attention for his baby until his baby stopped breathing,” Ischy told jurors during closing arguments. “That is seriously, by omission, causing injury, and in this case, death.”