The trial of former day care operator Sheila Caceres entered its second week Monday with a medical expert testifying that the infant who died while in her care was a victim of sudden infant death syndrome.
Dr. Robert Rothfeder, brought in by Caceres' defense attorney as an expert witness, said that after reviewing evidence in the case he determined that Avin Rominger was a victim of SIDS and that nothing could have been done to save the little boy.
"Even if the child had been found five seconds after the child took their last breath, it wouldn't have mattered," said Rothfeder, a veteran physician, lawyer and medical expert.
"Nothing would make any difference," added Rothfeder, who was flown in from Utah after being paid $5,000 in fees to review the case and travel to Sacramento for the defense. "The die was cast."
Rothfeder's testimony could be pivotal in a case the defense has based on the theory that Avin's death was from SIDS, which mysteriously kills as many as 3,000 infants yearly in the United States.
The reason for Avin's death inside Sheila's Garden Daycare in Mather on Feb. 23, 2011, remains unknown. The Sacramento County coroner ruled it a case of "sudden unexpected infant death," but added that "medical intervention could have saved the baby's life."
That finding is key to the case against Caceres, who faces a felony count of child endangerment along with one misdemeanor charge in a jury trial before Sacramento Superior Court Judge Sharon A. Lueras.
Caceres could face six years in prison if convicted.
While the defense contends Avin's death was from SIDS, authorities have said Caceres delayed calling 911 for help once she found the 10-week-old baby unresponsive.
Avin's parents, Dave and Rachelle Rominger, testified last week and have said that when Dave Rominger showed up to pick Avin up that day, Caceres opened the door as if nothing was wrong.
She went upstairs to retrieve him from a portable playpen, then came running downstairs shouting for Rominger to call 911.
But inconsistencies in Caceres' story about what happened led to further investigation. She initially told sheriff's detectives that Avin had been sleeping downstairs and that she found him unresponsive in a crib.
A day later, she called Detective Darin Pometta and changed her story, saying she found Avin unresponsive in a car seat upstairs at about 4:30 p.m. and placed him on his side in the playpen, rubbed his back and went downstairs until Dave Rominger showed up, authorities have said.
Dave Rominger showed up shortly before 5 p.m. and called 911.
Pometta took the stand Monday and listened as prosecutor Nancy Cochrane played a taped interview Pometta conducted the day after Avin's death with Caceres' teenage daughter, Alexandra.
The young woman initially told detectives that Avin had been in a downstairs crib, and on the tape she told Pometta that Caceres was concerned about the fact that Avin actually had been upstairs in violation of state licensing regulations.
"She was like, 'I can't go to jail for having him upstairs,' " the daughter said in the taped interview.
Call The Bee's Sam Stanton, (916) 321-1091.