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.