Festering tensions between a grieving mother and a former day care operator facing criminal charges in the death of a baby boy prompted a Sacramento judge to issue stern warnings Wednesday to both sides in the bitter case.
Superior Court Judge Gary S. Mullen granted the prosecution's request for a protective order, forbidding Sheila Caceres who once operated Sheila's Garden Daycare in Mather from having any contact with the victim's family.
Avin Rominger was 2 months old when he died suddenly in February 2011 while in the care of Caceres.
Since then, the baby's parents, Rachelle and Dave Rominger, who live in the same neighborhood, have aggressively pushed sheriff's investigators and the district attorney to seek the maximum punishment for their former child care provider.
Caceres, 32, was arrested eight months after the baby's death. She has pleaded not guilty to a felony charge of child endangerment and misdemeanor violation of fire safety regulations.
Last month, acrimony in the case spilled out in the courthouse when Rachelle Rominger accused Caceres in court of hugging her 6-year-old daughter, who also had been cared for by Caceres. The mother, who recently gave birth to a baby girl, later shouted "baby killer" at Caceres as she left the courthouse with her attorney.
Caceres' attorney, Joe Welch, told the judge Wednesday that his client had been subjected to "horribly loud outbursts" at the April 13 hearing.
Mullen acknowledged the incident and said, should something similar happen again, he would have to sanction the family, who did not attend Wednesday's hearing.
"They have to provide decorum and provide a reasonable opportunity for the defense to appear," the judge said.
Caceres' preliminary hearing, scheduled for Wednesday, was postponed until June 22.
Rachelle Rominger told The Bee she is angry and frustrated by the legal delays.
"Sheila's just stone-walling," she said. "She's putting off the inevitable so she can continue to spend time with her family and her life. And I don't get the same."
The Sacramento County coroner could not determine exactly how Avin died, ruling the cause of death to be "sudden unexpected infant death with delayed medical intervention."
Caceres is accused of knowing the infant was in distress but leaving him alone and failing to immediately call 911 for help. The baby was pronounced dead at a hospital.