Jury told hurt boy's dad 'excellent'

Wife testifies accused was patient with obstinate 2-year-old

Posted: September 6, 2018 at 3:11 a.m.

A 24-year-old Little Rock man accused of inflicting life-threatening injuries on his 2-year-old son is an "excellent father" who has shown remarkable patience when dealing with the "hyperactive" and sometimes-obstinate toddler, his wife told a Pulaski County jury Wednesday.

Blatant "inflicted trauma" is how a pediatrician described Charles "Charlie" Juarez' visible injuries -- bruises covering his face, chest and back -- to the nine women and three men of the jury hearing evidence against Rolando Juarez-Rosaldo.

But those marks were nowhere near as serious as the damage they concealed, fractured ribs and a ruptured gallbladder, prosecutors said in opening statements.

The 24-year-old defendant is charged with first-degree battery of a child, which carries a 10-year minimum sentence. Proceedings before Judge Barry Sims resume at 9 a.m. today.

The marks on the child's body, along with the way the child had been throwing up, immediately alarmed the medical staff -- first a nurse and then the doctor she summoned -- who saw the boy when Juarez-Rosaldo and his wife took him to an Arkansas Children's Hospital pediatric clinic for an April 20, 2017, inoculation appointment. He was rushed to the hospital's emergency room for immediate surgery by the first doctor who saw him.

Deputy prosecutor Melissa Brown told jurors that Juarez-Rosaldo was "evasive" with hospital staff and could not satisfactorily account for his son's condition. But he did acknowledge that he and his wife had been the only ones taking care of the child and that he sometimes disciplined the toddler with a belt.

"He blamed everyone but himself," she said in her opening statement. "The doctors, they will tell you this is child abuse ... caused by multiple blunt-force traumas."

Charlie was "awful" to deal with, a rambunctious and frequently disobedient child, but Juarez-Rosaldo loves the boy, his only son, and did not hurt him, defense attorney Leonardo Monterrey said in his opening statement. He warned jurors that prosecutors would try to paint his client as violent and explosive without providing any evidence.

Monterrey further cautioned jurors to be skeptical of testimony that his client initially refused to allow the emergency surgery on the boy. He is a laborer who speaks little English and was forced to rely on an interpreter.

What Juarez-Rosaldo needed was a few minutes to consult his wife and absorb what was happening, the defense attorney said.

What he got was doctors trying to explain a complicated surgical procedure to him while he struggled with his worry about his child and the implication that he was being accused of inflicting the injuries, Monterrey said. Juarez-Rosaldo did consent to the operation after a few minutes, according to testimony.

The defendant's wife, Marleny Marili Reyes-Ramos, told jurors that her husband did not hurt the boy.

"He didn't do anything to his son," she said, describing Charlie as "very hyperactive" and always falling down.

She said she believes Charlie's injuries were caused by separate falls a couple of days before he was taken to the clinic. Reyes-Ramos said that many of the bruises doctors saw were actually bite marks inflicted by her two children, who were 3 and 5, because Charlie bit them.

"My children learned a habit from Charlie, and they started biting him," the 32-year-old woman testified. "They were biting each other almost daily. It was a habit they got into."

Reyes-Ramos, who is not the toddler's mother and has not been charged in the case, told jurors that she never saw her husband physically discipline her children or Charlie. She said she knows of only one time that the defendant spanked Charlie with a belt and that was because, her husband told her, Charlie had hit him in the face with a sandal.

She said her husband typically disciplined the boy by sending him to his room or taking away his toys. Charlie usually listened to her more than his father, Reyes-Ramos testified, speaking through an interpreter.

"Sometimes the child would throw tantrums more on him than on me," she said.

She also denied hurting the boy and said she never physically disciplined Charlie.

"I wanted him to start loving me as a mother," she said.

All of the couple's children are in state custody, including Reyes-Ramos' two children and third child born since Charlie was injured. The court decision revoking her parental rights is under appeal.


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