Toddler-attacker faces 10-year sentence

Nearly six months after his head was bashed with a rock as his mother cradled him at a Redwood City bus stop, a 2-year-old boy still clings in terror to his parents’ limbs when strangers are near, according to his family.

On Tuesday, a judge ruled the stranger accused of injuring him in the April 20 attack will be held to answer to four felonies. Jose Rivera Salvador, 22, is charged with assault with a deadly weapon, battery causing great bodily injury, causing serious injury to a child and corporal punishment of a child. Salvador, who was convicted of misdemeanor assault in 2004, could face 10 years in state prison if convicted, according to Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

San Mateo Superior Court Judge Stephen Hall ruled there was enough evidence to hold Salvador to the charges after testimony by both witnesses and investigators.

The boy’s mother, Rosanna Cuellar, did not testify at Tuesday’s preliminary hearing, but will likely take the stand at Salvador’s trial. San Mateo County Sheriff’s Detective Victor Lopez, the transit officer who investigated the incident, told the judge he interviewed Cuellar earlier that day.

Cuellar told Lopez that while the staples in her son’s scalp have been removed, the psychological effects of the attack have persisted.

“If anyone walks near them, he’ll cling to their arms and legs very tight and won’t let go,” Lopez testified.

Authorities say Cuellar had just gone shopping at the Sequoia Station Safeway and was approaching a bus kiosk when Salvador got off his bicycle and approached her, Lopez said. Weighed down by groceries in one arm, her then 18-month-old son in the other and a diaper bag slung over her shoulder, she later told investigators that she didn’t anticipate the attack.

According to Lopez, Salvador told Cuellar “you’re going to pay” before striking the child once in the back of the head with a softball-size rock. Witnesses at the bus stop said a shocked Cuellar shielded her son and fled through the open doors of a SamTrans bus. The boy’s head was bleeding profusely, witnesses said.

Onlookers pointed out Salvador a short time later. He was found in the shopping center, listening to headphones and acting strangely, police said.

On Tuesday, his public defender, Eric Hove, unsuccessfully argued that the charges should be reduced because the child has physically recovered and was discharged from the hospital the same day as the incident.

tbarak@examiner.com

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