Modesto couple charged in baby's death

A Modesto father accused of killing his 16-month-old son and a mother who prosecutors say failed to stop him in the 2008 incident were formally charged Tuesday in Stanislaus County Superior Court.

A judge ruled that Andrew Paffendorf, 24, will stand trial on charges of murder and assault on a child resulting in death. Alicia Paffendorf, 23, will face a jury on a felony charge of abusing and endangering a child.

The man's mother said he has a history of "severe mental illness" and tried to kill himself after his son's death. Detectives confirmed the suicide attempt.

Authorities say the toddler, Andrew Abdill Paffendorf, died from blunt force trauma to his abdomen.

Emergency workers were called Dec. 2, 2008, to a home in the 3600 block of Crows Landing Road, south of Modesto, for a report of a child who wasn't breathing, authorities said. The boy was taken to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Authorities said they were concerned when they spotted severe bruising on the child's body. A pathologist found signs of old fractures on one side of the boy's body during an autopsy, authorities said.

Andrew Paffendorf's mother, Debbie Paffendorf of Modesto, told The Bee shortly after the arrests that mental illness runs in her family. Two days after her grandson's death, she said, her son overdosed on pills in an attempt to commit suicide attempt.

Paffendorf said her son, a house painter, has had problems with depression, anger and mental illness since the third or fourth grade. She said her son had "a lot of stress in his life" related to work, family and housing.

She said her grandson stayed with her for several days a month before his death. At the time, he had no bruises, she said, and "was acting fine and happy." The boy was the couple's only child.

Andrew Paffendorf is being held at the Stanislaus County Jail, with bail set at $1 million. Alicia Paffendorf is being held at the Public Safety Center, with bail at $25,000.

They are scheduled to return to court June 9.

Bee staff writer Merrill Balassone can be reached at or 578-2337.