Suisun City foster father guilty of 2nd-degree murder

By From page A1 | July 30, 2014

Reginald Tanubagijo was convicted of killing a 3-month-old boy in his care in Suisun City. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic file 2010)

Reginald Tanubagijo was convicted of killing a 3-month-old boy in his care in Suisun City. (Brad Zweerink/Daily Republic file 2010)

FAIRFIELD — A Suisun City foster father who was entrusted with the care of a 3-month old boy was found guilty Tuesday of second-degree murder and felony assault causing death of the child.

Only Reginald Tanubagijo, 57, knows what happened on the night of Nov. 29, 2010, while he was alone with the child in the kitchen of his Suisun City home as his wife was with another foster child preparing for bed in another part of their home.

Tanubagijo, who took the witness stand during the last day of testimony in a three-week jury trial, said he was giving the baby a bottle of formula as the baby was lying on a bouncer chair on the kitchen table. The baby, Christian Bito, started to choke and gasp and turned red. Tanubagijo reached out to get the baby, who he referred to by the nickname Buddy, but he snagged a tablecloth. That caused the bouncer to tumble from the tabletop and sent the baby headfirst onto the granite floor, Tanubagijo testified.

Prosecutor Robert Hightower repeatedly told jurors during closing arguments that Tanubagijo’s story did not add up, especially in light of the severity of the baby’s brain injuries and the fact that Tanubagijo did not tell anybody about the fall until he was confronted by police who asked him about the brain trauma when Tanubagijo had only mentioned the baby choking on the formula. Tanubagijo did not tell his wife about the fall, or paramedics, or doctors at two hospitals.

Tanubagijo from the witness stand offered up weak explanations for his silence about the fall. He said nobody had asked him about what preceded the 911 call to report the baby had stopped breathing and that paramedics and doctors had been too busy treating the baby for him to want to interrupt their futile lifesaving efforts.

Expert prosecution witnesses on child abuse and child death injuries said the massive bleeding from the child’s brain was most likely caused by a combination of blunt force trauma and violent shaking.

Tanubagijo’s defense attorney, Jaye Ryan, also had expert witnesses who explained to jurors that the injuries were consistent with Tanubagijo’s version of events.

Ryan told Judge Robert Bowers that she would continue the fight for her client and would seek to have the verdicts overturned and would ask for a new trial.

Bowers ordered Tanubagijo jailed without bail until he is sentenced. He had been free on $250,000 bail. Tanubagijo was ordered back to court Sept. 26.

The murder and the child assault causing death charges both carry with them life sentences.

Hightower, relatively new to the Solano County District Attorney’s Office, was assigned the complex, intricate medical evidence murder case just a few weeks before the start of the trial.

A civil wrongful death lawsuit filed by the baby’s mother, who had the child removed from her care by county authorities because of her methamphetamine use, is pending.

Reach Jess Sullivan at 427-6919 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jsullivandr.

Jess Sullivan

Jess has covered the criminal justice system in Solano County for several years. He was an embedded reporter in Iraq in 2003.

Discussion | 13 comments

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  • 2realJuly 30, 2014 - 5:39 am

    2nd degree? What a joke

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  • gemmaJuly 30, 2014 - 8:03 am

    I still want to know why someone would have Granite floors. I've never heard of a granite floor. Since the liar says the baby fell onto the granite floor, I'd like confirmation the floor was granite because the killer is a liar, so lying about a floor isn't beyond possibility.

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  • SueJuly 30, 2014 - 6:07 pm

    Being a friend, I went to the court. I was there when that was said. Someone else said granite. It was Cement stone tile. They put the words in the mouth. This man is innocent. I cannot believe it. The gentlest man, the calmest man, the kindest man with kids.

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  • SueJuly 30, 2014 - 6:08 pm

    I am standing up for our dear friends Tanubagijo. Mr Tanubagijo raised his 2 nieces, his knefews, they had 5 foster children they helped. Plus they raised their biological niece from birth to 18. This man is innocent. I cannot believe it. The gentlest man, the calmest man, the kindest man with kids.

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  • SueJuly 30, 2014 - 6:10 pm

    Jess Sullivan I think it was this newspaper. You reported a few days ago, about Bowers always favoring Hightower, and overuling Ms. Jaye Ryan. YOU ARE RIGHT ON POLITICS, POLITICS. SOMEONE READ THIS, CLEAN OUT THE DIRT BAGS in SOLANO COUNTY. YOUR NEXT !!!!!

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  • Maggie LinkJuly 30, 2014 - 1:53 pm

    Absolutely disgusted to find this out about MY NEIGHBOR!!!

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  • SueJuly 30, 2014 - 6:02 pm

    This is unreal. Too bad all of you Solano County Residents didn't know the whole truth DO YOU. I know this family VERY well. And Mr. Tanubagijo was railroaded from the beginning. Suisun Police hid evidence. They Lied. Doctors lied. GEEZE. The hidden video came out 2 years later, there was a team searching for the tape. They found it! in a safe. They spliced it, and took out Mr Tanubagijos testimony to what happened. Autopsies showed Accident. Oh, but they hid that to !! HOPE YOUR SON OR DAUGHTER DON'T GO TO PRISON FOR SOMETHING THEY DIDN'T DO!!! Get your facts straight before blaming someone that is innocent. EVERYONE that knows Mr. Tanubagijo is INNOCENT. All Mr Tanubagijos character witness said he was kind, gentle, loving, calm. DId you know the baby was bleeding through his rectum from birth? Did you know that he was born meth addicted? Did you know that Meth weakens the babys heart, veins, very fragile? One fall, did it. The judge would not even let Ms Ryan speak. The DA was always sustained when objections were made, and on Ms. Ryan always overruled. YOU CALL THAT a FAIR TRIAL? How would you feel if it was YOU or your husband or sister, or brother. ALSO I WAS THERE FOR OUR GOOD FRIENDS. GOD KNOWS. And God knows YOU are judging. Only God is the Judge.

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  • The TruthJuly 31, 2014 - 7:36 am

    It's unfortunate that the verdict is being blamed on the Judge and politics, when it is Ms. Ryan's incompetence that you should hold accountable. She should be honest with her clients about her experience, e.g. how many jury trials she has actually done, the nature of her scientific studies etc. Although she no doubt boasted to the family about her 'expertise' she is not qualified to handle this case. It is her lack of familiarity with the Evidence code which caused the judge to consistently sustain the D.A. objections. The defendant would have been much better served by one of Solano's Public Defenders.

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  • The Truth From Someone Who Watched The TrialJuly 31, 2014 - 10:38 am

    Everyone in the courtroom, lawyers and non-lawyers alike, saw that Judge Bowers treated Ms. Ryan unfairly. You don't get Ms. Ryan's record of successfully defending innocent people by being incompetent. You don't get Ms. Ryan's reputation among both defense attorneys and prosecutors by being incompetent nor do you get assigned major cases like this one - and including death penalty cases - by being incompetent. You get these things by pursuing excellence and being excellent as Ms. Ryan has done. Whatever your personal vendetta is against her, to target her after a loss where clearly an innocent man was convicted by an unethical prosecutor's office and a bully ex-prosecutor judge, who by all accounts disregarded the law on evidence to get a conviction, shows your nature of, for whatever reason, just wanting to heap more evil to an evil situation. Ms. Ryan is one of the finest lawyers around and has a stellar reputation among courts, colleagues, and clients. The tragedy here is that a baby accidentally died and the system, hell-bent on conviction against the clear evidence, got its way at the expense of an innocent man's life. My heart goes out to his family and to Ms. Ryan whom everyone who actually watched the trial saw gave her heart and soul to make a stand for Justice.

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  • AnonymousAugust 02, 2014 - 9:36 pm

    It's is so said that you have disregarded your personal experiences with your neighbor to draw a line in the sand so to speak, when you probably were never in the court room and saw a very broken man who is extremely remorseful. He takes full responsibility for his actions and will have to live the rest of his life knowing that this tragedy happened on his watch. It was an accident. There was no malicious forethought or malice ever, nor has this EVER been the demeaner of this man. As a neighbor (and I loosely state that, due to your comment) obviously you aren't a neighbor who knows this man or his family at all. I feel sorry for you. There are prisons full of innocent people, as we find out all the time! Our court/law system is not perfect, and sometimes the jury just gets it wrong!!! No one person wins, and to make comments that dig into the hearts of those who have to pick up and carry on, is just incentive and hateful!

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  • SueAugust 27, 2014 - 4:43 pm

    I hope that somehow someway, that this man is shown Innocent. I know personally many hundreds of people that know this poor man was accused wrongly. It is so sad that this justice system really is THAT BAD. I would bet my LIFE on this mans innocence. This trial needs to be re-done in a NON-BIASED FAIR Court. Please someone HELP THIS MAN ! Whatever happened to FAIR, and Innocent until proven, they had this man pegged from the beginning. THAT IS un FAIR ! I wish people would rise up for this man. I SWEAR he is INNOCENT !!!

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  • SueAugust 27, 2014 - 4:46 pm

    Jess Sullivan please find out the truth for your paper. Your paper will be shown to fight for the little people "US" and not the political agenda of the govt. Talk to friends, make a column and talk to his family, friends, do interviews. Write their reviews of him? You will be amazed.

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  • SueAugust 27, 2014 - 5:09 pm

    Also, I would like to add something to my wifes quotes. Mr Tanubagijo's english was his second language. And Mr Tanubagijo mis-understood many of the questions the DA asked and DA/Hightower kept twisting everything around and using Mr Tanubagijos language barrier against him. I felt so sorry for Mr Tanubagijo. IS THIS FAIR? He is so.....innocent. Mr. Hillborn. In addition, (they don't announce stuff like this) but The DA's office tried to have Ms. Ryan arrested because she knew to much about what the DA was doing. They tried to get her out of the way afraid she was going to reveal the truth about the DA's office. The CA STATE Attorney General came to one of the court sessions because of the District Attorneys office and all of the errors/hiding things - I THINK this is called OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE don't you. NOW, how would you feel if it was you or your wife or brother/sister being accused. Someone really needs to look in to this !! This trial was VERY biased. WRONG ! Many people saw this from the judge to the jury. Jury just wanted to get done and out of there. So lets put an innocent man in prison . . . . I sure hope the judge and jury cannot sleep at night. The new District Attorney that was VOTED IN needs to re-do this case.

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