PASADENA - 4/02/10
A mother and her boyfriend must both stand trial in the murder of the woman's 2-year-old son, who suffocated after he was bound with masking tape inside his crib at the couple's Pasadena home last year, a judge ruled Friday.
At a preliminary hearing, attorneys for co-defendants Maria Pelaez, 30, and Gabriel Diaz, 33, each sought to lessen their clients' roles in the events leading to the death of Rene Torres Jr.
But Pasadena Court Judge Lisa Lench ruled prosecutors produced sufficient evidence to hold both defendants on charges of murder, torture and assault on a child resulting in death.
Pelaez's attorney, David Cohn, argued that Diaz was solely responsible for Rene's death. He asked Lench to dismiss the charges against her, saying she took no personal role in the death and that testimony had shown the mother had voiced concern about Diaz's discipline methods and had asked him to stop.
"The fact that a person was present at the scene of the crime and did not stop the crime does not make him or her an aider and abetter," he argued, adding that Pelaez had shown she was a caring and responsible mother in the past.
My client denied and remained consistent that he never suffocated the child," Morris said.
Diaz admitted he bound the child in tape the night he died, she said, as well as on previous occasions. But she said there was no evidence Diaz deliberately tried to harm the child.
Prosecutor Debra Archuleta,however, argued that both parents are equally culpable - Diaz for using "torture tactics" in binding Rene with the tape, then using the child's baby blanket to smother him, and Pelaez for doing nothing to stop it.
Both Morris and Cohn argued the torture charge should be thrown out, saying there is no evidence that either parent intentionally inflicted "great bodily harm" on Rene.
While highly questionable, Cohn said, using tape on a child could not have caused serious injury. Without the infliction of great bodily injury, torture did not occur, Morris and Cohn argued.
Archuleta countered that the boy's death amounted to great bodily harm and insisted both were reponsible.
Pelaez and Diaz were scheduled to return to court April 19 for arraignment.