A jury trial will proceed for a man accused of murdering his baby. Eric Montejano appeared in Yuba County Superior Court for a preliminary hearing on Friday, June 26.
Montejano, 22, of Linda is charged with felony first-degree murder, willful harm or injury to a child likely to produce great bodily injury or harm, and preventing or dissuading a witness/victim from prosecuting.
Montejano was initially arrested in December 2019 following an investigation, after a 5-week-old baby was brought into Adventist Health/Rideout Hospital with head injuries. The child was transferred to UC Davis Children’s hospital in Sacramento where he remained until he was taken off of life support and died on Jan. 3.
The four witnesses who testified at the preliminary hearing were Montejano’s ex-girlfriend and three law enforcement officials who responded to the incident.
Montejano’s ex-girlfriend testified to the events of Dec. 20, 2019 when she was living with Montejano and their newborn son. She said she had left the baby with Montejano that evening while she went to take a shower and noticed something was wrong with the baby when she returned.
“He was like crying, but trying to catch a breath so it was very, very low crying,” she said. “I immediately grabbed the baby and saw the whole left side of his face was bruised and bleeding from mouth.”
She testified that she confronted Montejano, asking him if he hit the baby, to which he said yes.
She said when she tried to use her phone to call for help, Montejano became agitated and tried to stop her, until she convinced him to drive them to Adventist Health/Rideout.
“When I told him I was going to call 911, that’s when he started trying to take the baby and kind of pushing me,” she testified. “I told him that the baby was dying and so that convinced Eric (Montejano) to change his mind.”
Phillip S. Bronson, a detective with the Yuba County Sheriff’s Department, testified that he responded to the UC Davis Children’s hospital where the baby was transferred from Adventist Health/Rideout. He said he spoke to the baby’s doctor who said his injuries were conducive with blunt force trauma.
Yuba County Sheriff’s Detective Javier Zepeda interviewed Montejano the night of the incident at the sheriff’s office. Montejano’s lawyer took issue with the time of the interview, which occurred at around 5:30 a.m., noting that Montejano hadn’t slept in a full day when he was interviewed by law enforcement.
Zepeda said Montejano explained how he had hit the baby because the baby would not stop crying, demonstrating how he hit the baby with an open-palm.
“As the interview progressed the amount of times that he struck him (the baby) continued to rise all the way up to five to six times,” Zepeda said.
Zepeda also testified that he attended an autopsy of the baby that was conducted on Jan. 6 by a Placer County coroner, who is an expert of forensic pathology and child physical abuse.
“The cause of death was blunt force trauma to the head,” Zepeda said of the coroner’s conclusion.
At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, Judge Kathleen O’Connor determined that Montejano would answer to all charges.
Montejano will appear in Yuba County Superior Court for an upper court arraignment on July 24 at 9 a.m. He remains in custody at Yuba County Jail on $1 million bail.