FAIRFIELD — The defense case for a foster parent accused of murdering his 3-month-old ward in 2010 culminated Wednesday with the defendant taking the witness stand.
Reginald Tanubagijo, 57, has pleaded not guilty to charges of murder and felony child abuse causing death. Prosecutors believe Tanubagijo intentionally injured the child, causing fatal brain damage on the night of Nov. 29, 2010.
Tanubagijo testified that he was with the baby he called “Buddy” in the kitchen of his Suisun City home while his wife was putting an older child to bed. When he stepped toward “Buddy,” who was sitting in a bouncer on a dining room table, he snagged his foot on a tablecloth. That caused the bouncer to shift a few inches and then tumble off the table, sending “Buddy” and the bouncer headfirst to the granite floor.
Tanubagijo’s defense attorney, Jaye Ryan, was not gentle with her client, asking him loudly and bluntly why he had waited for nearly 24 hours to tell anybody including wife, paramedics, police or doctors about the tumble. All Tanubagijo initially told anybody was that “Buddy” had been choking. That changed when Suisun City police confronted him with evidence of the child’s severe internal head injuries.
“I am so sorry,” he said.
“Why?” Ryan pressed.
“I was afraid my wife would leave me,” he said. “I was afraid no one would believe me and I’d be in trouble, too.”
“Why the delay?” Ryan asked.
“I felt ashamed. I felt responsible,” Tanubagijo said.
Prosecutor Robert Hightower was even less gentle with Tanubagijo.
“Why didn’t you tell paramedics?” he asked.
“They did not ask,” Tanubagijo replied.
“Why not volunteer to to paramedics that he fell?” Hightower asked.
“They were busy,” Tanubagijo said.
“In the emergency room, why didn’t you tell the doctors and nurses?” the prosecutor asked.
“They did not ask me,” Tanubagijo said.
“At Children’s Hospital in Oakland, when a social worker asked you about what happened, why didn’t you say what happened?” Hightower asked.
“I did not tell the truth,” the defendant said.
Tanubagijo repeatedly said he had panicked and was shocked and confused and tired and that everything had happened so quickly. He went on to describe a failed suicide attempt, cutting his wrists and overdosing on prescription drugs a few days before the baby’s life support was removed. He said he still agreed with a suicide note he penned in which he wrote, “I killed Buddy. I did it.”
“I was confused and tired,” he said. “My mind was not right.”
Judge Robert Bowers told jurors that closing arguments in the trial are expected to begin at around 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.