Man gets 25 years to life in death of Atwater baby

vpatton@mercedsunstar.comMay 1, 2013 

— Tears fell on both sides of the courtroom Wednesday as a 29-year-old man convicted of fatally injuring his girlfriend's 16-month-old son was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison.

Armando Oseguera Jr. wept and wiped his face on his orange and white jailhouse uniform during Wednesday's sentencing hearing. A jury convicted the defendant last year for the July 24, 2007, death of Landon Skinner in Atwater. Jurors convicted him of assault on a child with force likely to result in great bodily injury and felony child abuse.

During the trial, the prosecution argued that Oseguera hurt the baby while the child was in his care. Back in 2007, Oseguera told Atwater detectives he had no idea how the baby died. But his story changed three years later, saying he dropped the child -- and the baby's stomach hit the corner of a crib. Oseguera was arrested April 27, 2010.

The prosecution compiled a timeline showing when Oseguera had watched the child, and argued that the injury the child suffered was so severe it couldn't have been an accident. The child's autopsy concluded that he died from blunt force trauma to the stomach. The prosecution said the blow was so powerful it caused severe damage to the baby's organs, resulting in internal bleeding.

During the trial, the jury found Oseguera guilty on a misdemeanor domestic violence charge for an incident involving the child's mother, Jennifer Karroll. Karroll has two children from her relationship with Oseguera.

Despite the conviction, Oseguera continued to maintain his innocence Wednesday. When given a chance by Judge Donald Proietti to address the court, Oseguera said he was hurt by the child's death, but wasn't responsible. "Why would I do that? I have my own kids," Oseguera said. "I don't even hit my own kids. Why would I hit someone else's?"

Judge Proietti, however, wasn't swayed by Oseguera's words, saying the fact he waited three years to come forward to detectives about dropping the baby indicates consciousness of guilt. "That concealment has created a nightmare for all the families here today," Proietti said.

Members of the victim's family and friends had the opportunity to address Oseguera before he was sentenced. A member of the county's Victim Witness Program read a statement from Don and Tammy Bruley, the child's grandparents. In the statement, the grandparents wrote that Oseguera's actions had "completely torn their family apart."

"Landon was a happy, innocent baby who was always happy and smiling. We will never get to see him grow up," the statement read. "Your actions are unspeakable."

Jawanda Trindade, the victim's aunt, had strong words for the defendant. "I hope you suffer and live a long miserable life in prison. And I hope you rot in hell," she said.

Deputy District Attorney Matthew Serratto, who prosecuted the case, said the sentence was fair. "I think anybody who saw that trial would have come to the same conclusion the jury did," Serratto said. "He got up on the stand and protested his innocence, but his testimony wasn't believable at all."

Still, there was no shortage of people in the courtroom who believe Oseguera is innocent. More than two dozen of Oseguera's friends and family members attended the hearing. Many wore T-shirts which read "Free Nano." Nano is the defendant's nickname.

Oseguera's friends and family members cried during the hearing, describing him as a person who hasn't shown a propensity for violence.

Irene Silva, who's known Oseguera since his youth, drove from Los Angeles to support him in court. She described Oseguera as a kind person who is missing out on the lives of his children. "This does not describe his character -- this is a shock to everyone. He is the sweetest person ever," Silva said.

Angel Perez, Oseguera's cousin, said the defendant took care of him while growing up. "It's not in Nano's character to do that, you know?" Perez said. "I've never even seen him mad."

Earlier during the day, Proietti had denied a motion for a new trial filed by Oseguera's defense attorney, Joseph Martin. Martin claimed that Atwater police detectives in 2010 didn't read the defendant his Miranda rights after he failed a polygraph test. During that test, Oseguera was asked whether he had anything to do with the child's death.

Furthermore, Martin claimed his client was denied a fair trial because his prior attorney, Deputy Public Defender Tony Green, didn't file a motion seeking to exclude any statements Oseguera made to detectives before his Miranda rights were read. "If we're going to send Mr. Oseguera to prison for the rest of his life, let's have a fair trial," Martin argued to Proietti.

The judge gave several reasons for denying the defense motion, saying Oseguera wasn't in custody when he consented to the polygraph test and volunteered his statements afterward. Proietti said the defendant never asked to terminate his discussion with detectives. The judge concluded that the defendant received a fair trial with Green as his attorney.

Oseguera will be eligible for parole after serving about 18 years in prison.

City Editor Victor A. Patton can be reached at (209) 385-2431 or vpatton@mercedsunstar.com.

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