Father's defense: Child fell repeatedly

The defense attorney for a Daly City man accused of killing his toddler son in a case of alleged shaken-baby syndrome reiterated the claim that the 18-month-old boy died due to a series of accidental falls.

Opening statements began Monday in the trial of Pedro Joaquin Olivas, 50, who is accused of violently shaking and killing his son, Fernando, in April 2004. Olivas was taking care of Fernando while the boy’s mother was at work.

Prosecutors say the boy’s injuries were consistent with shaken-baby syndrome, in which an adult violently shakes a baby or toddler out of extreme frustration. Medical symptoms for the syndrome include retinal bleeding and brain damage.

But defense attorney Scott Furstman said one of the primary causes of the boy’s death was two falls he sustained on the night of his death. The boy fell from his bed and climbed back up onto the bed before falling again, this time slamming his face into a nearby heater.

Furstman said Olivas’ back was turned away as Fernando suffered his falls.

The defense attorney then pointed to a pattern of alleged falls the boy sustained leading up to his death. Furstman said that on April 8, 2004, one night before the alleged murder, Fernando had fallen off of a high chair after the boy was left unattended. Later that night, the boy fell again off of a couch. Furstman said Olivas kept this information from authorities to protect the child’s mother.

Deputy District Attorney Al Giannini disputed the idea that the boy’s death was accidental. He said he will call to the stand a number of top medical experts who will say Fernando’s death was consistent with shaken-baby syndrome.

Giannini said blood was found in the boy’s bed, which would contradict Olivas’ story that he fell from the bed, got up and fell again onto a heater. Giannini added that a layer of dust on the heater did not indicate the boy’s head fell on it.

Dr. Mark Alderdice, who was working at Seton Medical Center in Daly City the night Olivas took the boy to the emergency room, testified Monday that the injuries were too profound to be attributed to a fall.

“It seemed inconceivable to me that the injuries occurred by a fall,” he said. Olivas is in custody on $3 million bail.

bfoley@examiner.com

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