After two and a half days of testimony and questions and four hours of deliberation, a Jasper County jury found Eddie Salazar Sr. guilty of killing his eight-month-old son, Eddie Salazar Jr.
The seven-woman, five-man jury, faced with the choice of second degree murder or involuntary manslaughter, chose the more serious charge of murder to describe Salazar Sr.’s actions on Feb. 4, 2010, in the home at 227 E. Mound St. in Carthage.
The jury sided with the prosecution’s version of the case, which was that Salazar Sr., became so frustrated that his baby son wouldn’t stop crying that he forcefully threw the baby to the ceramic tile floor of the front room of the home.
They rejected a defense version of the incident, which said Salazar was shaking the baby to try to get him to stop crying, then realized he shouldn’t shake the baby and lost his grip on the child, letting him fall to the floor accidentally.
Jasper County Prosecutor Dean Dankelson, who tried the case for the state along with assistant prosecutor Norman Rouse, said Salazar Sr.’s actions after he found the baby dead in the crib told investigators that the death was no accident.
“Frequently you can tell what somebody’s intentions were by the actions they take subsequent to the act they commit,” Dankelson said. “In this case, all of the lies and deception and disposing of the body the way that he did so all lent themselves towards the fact, as Mr. Rouse said in his closing argument, that this was a cold, calculated murder as opposed to an accident. If it’s an accident, you call the police, you call the ambulance; you seek help for your eight-month-old child. You don’t do what this defendant did.”
Defense attorney Larry Maples declined to comment on the verdict except to say he planned to petition for a new trial.
Maples rested his case without presenting any evidence or witnesses.
The only witness jurors saw on Wednesday was Dr. Ariel Goldsmith, forensic pathologist with the Cook County, Ill., Medical Examiner’s Office, who examined baby Eddie Salazar Jr.’s body after it was pulled from the Spring River down stream from the Morrow Mill Road bridge about six miles east of Carthage on Feb. 6, 2010, two days after the baby was reported missing by his father.
Goldsmith testified that he found three fractures in the baby’s skull that he attributed to blunt force trauma.
He also testified to patterns of bruises on the baby’s chest and abdomen that he said could have been caused by someone holding the child forcefully and shaking him.
Goldsmith said the skull fractures could not have resulted from a fall of less than three feet.
When shown a video of Eddie Salazar Sr. demonstrating with a stuffed animal how he shook the baby and the baby slipped from his hands, Goldsmith said the fractures could not have resulted from falling from Salazar’s hands while he was seated on the family couch.
He said the fall would have needed more force to cause the fractures.
In final arguments, Maples tried to convince the jury that Eddie Salazar Sr. lied about what happened and tried hide the body because he felt guilty about accidentally dropping his son and he feared that no one would believe what really happened.
He said Eddie Salazar Sr. loved his son and had no reason to intentionally throw his son to the floor like would be required to meet the threshold of second degree murder.
“Eddie Salazar Sr. didn’t mean to kill his child and didn’t want to cause substantial risk of injury,” Maple said. “There is no evidence of any possible reason, motive or drive for Eddie to kill or injure his son. It was a tragic accident. Look at the picture of this beautiful child. You do no service to this child by convicting his father of murder.”
In his final arguments, Assistant Prosecutor Rouse said the defendant’s actions all pointed to murder.
“When you serve on a jury, you take home memories you never forget,” Rouse said. “One of the memories from this case is the defendant standing on a bridge on a cold February night with his eight-month-old child and dropping that child over the bridge and hearing him splash. What causes a man to take an eight-month-old child, hid progeny, and takes him to a bridge and drops him in the water so that he would never be able to visit his body or his mother would never be able to visit him? Murder. The man knew he has just murdered his eight-month-old child.”
Salazar’s mother, sister and other family members wept in the back of the courtroom when the verdict was read.
Maria Salazar, Eddie Salazar Sr.’s sister, declined to comment on the case except to say the family still has many questions and doesn’t believe all the evidence has been presented in the case.
Carthage Police Capt. Randee Kaiser, who spent more than three hours on the stand Tuesday testifying in the case, said he was pleased with the outcome of the trial. Kaiser also thanked the agencies that helped investigate the case and search for the baby back in February 2010.
“I had a lot of confidence in the prosecutor’s office and obviously that confidence was well-placed because they did an outstanding job of getting the jury to understand what we all understood having been there every minute of the case,” Kaiser said. “The prosecution did a great job of getting the jury to understand exactly what had transpired.”