New details revealed in the investigation into 4-year-old’s death in Merced County

Merced County mother, boyfriend arraigned on charges in death of 4-year-old boy

Chanish Conrady, 22, of Los Banos and her boyfriend Steve Perez Jr. 27, of Dos Palos, were arraigned on charges in connection with her 4-year-old's death at Merced County Superior Court in Merced, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018.
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Chanish Conrady, 22, of Los Banos and her boyfriend Steve Perez Jr. 27, of Dos Palos, were arraigned on charges in connection with her 4-year-old's death at Merced County Superior Court in Merced, Calif., on Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018.

A Los Banos mother and her boyfriend on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to criminal charges in connection with the death of the woman’s 4-year-old son.

Chanish Conrady, a 22-year-old mother from Los Banos, and her boyfriend Steve Perez Jr., 27, of Dos Palos, appeared before Judge Carol Ash in Merced County Superior Court in connection with the death last month of Conrady’s 4-year-old son.

Authorities said on the night of Nov. 7, emergency responders were called to a home on Ida Street in Dos Palos where a child was reportedly having seizures. The child was rushed to Los Banos Memorial Hospital, where he died.

Conrady appeared in court Tuesday alongside Merced County Public Defender Katie Reed and pleaded not guilty to charges of assault on a child causing death and corporal punishment inflicting injury upon a child. Steve Perez, who appeared with his attorney, Jeffery Tenenbaum, also pleaded not guilty to the same charges.

Tenenbaum on Tuesday said his office still is waiting to review a “substantial” amount of evidence from the Merced County District Attorney’s Office.

“We do have a lot of documents to go through but my client’s entered a plea of not guilty, he’s maintaining his innocence and it’s on the county to prove he’s guilty,” he said.

According to a police report obtained by the Sun-Star, authorities ruled the child died from “blunt impact” abdominal and head injuries.

On Nov. 20, after a two-week investigation, the Merced County Sheriff’s Office arrested Conrady and Perez in connection with the boy’s death.

Conrady told investigators she was asleep when Perez came to tell her the child had a seizure and was turning blue and not breathing, according to the police reports.

Perez told investigators he was in the living room when the child exited his bedroom around 10:15 p.m. that night complaining of a stomach ache and saying he had to vomit. Perez said after the child vomited, he gave him water and sent him back to bed. Perez told investigators he thought it was only a stomach ache and did not inform Conrady, who he said was asleep, according to police reports.

Perez then told investigators that he was ‘dozing off’ on a couch when he heard the child exit his room a second time and heard a loud thud. Perez said he saw the child on the ground and, when he picked him up, the child was stiff. Perez told investigators the child’s mouth was shut tightly and he was struggling to breathe. Perez attempted to help the child and called 911 before waking Conrady, investigators said in the reports.

Merced County Sheriff’s Deputy Daryl Allen confirmed Merced County Child Protective Services had been involved in previous cases involving the child prior to the boy’s death.

According to police reports, Dos Palos police officers were familiar with the residence and had been there multiple times regarding suspected child abuse calls in the month leading up to the death. The Dos Palos Police Department had been called once by Valley Children’s Hospital and once by Los Banos Memorial to investigate possible child abuse.

Child Protective Services responded to both incidents, according to the police report.

The police reports state the child was seen by a doctor multiple times for various injuries in the month of October. Those reports say Conrady gave inconsistent explanations of how the injuries occurred.

Conrady’s attorney noted those incidents were being investigated and the child had not been removed from his mother’s home.

“There were essentially some injuries that my client actually brought her child in to get treatment for that they then reported to CPS just because they are mandated reporters,” said Reed. “Those investigations at that point did not lead to anything substantial, they were still looking into them but the child was not removed from the home.”

Reed said that based on what she has seen and after speaking with Conrady, she believes “there’s definitely other explanations for some of the injuries that were alleged to have occurred.”

Police reports show Child Protective Services also investigated claims made by both of the child’s biological parents alleging possible abuse.

Reed said that at this point, she is still looking into what happened.

“There are still medical records and the autopsy report which are going to be probably the major factors in this case to determine what actually happened,” she said. “Whether it was even a homicide, that’s still an open question as far as I’m concerned. We will be retaining our own experts in this case to be able to look over this evidence and hopefully clear her name on it.”

Perez and Conrady are both currently in custody on a $500,000 bond are scheduled to appear in court on Jan. 7 for a pre-preliminary hearing.