Trial ordered for defendant accused of shaking Manteca baby

MANTECA -- A Manteca man accused of severely shaking a 2-month-old boy he was helping raise will stand trial on charges that he injured the baby.

San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Franklin M. Stephenson ruled Thursday there is enough evidence to try Michael David Zamarripa, 25, on charges of child abuse or endangerment and corporal injury to a child with great bodily injury.

Zamarripa, who is in custody in lieu of $450,000 bail, is scheduled to be arraigned Nov. 1 in San Joaquin County Superior Court.

The baby, Michael Zamarripa Jr., is being treated at Children's Hospital Central California, Madera. His doctor said he is unsure whether the baby will survive.

The baby arrived at the hospital Sept. 28 with at least nine brain hem- orrhages, a doctor testified during Zamarripa's preliminary hearing.

While the child is named after Zamarripa, they might not be related. Zamarripa and the baby's mother, Amy Burgin, have been together for two years. Outside the courtroom Wednesday, Burgin said she initially thought Zamarripa was the baby's father, but later determined he likely wasn't and told him before the child was born.

Manteca police Detective Steve Beermann said Zamarripa told him he had propped the baby on his legs and fed him but fell asleep and awoke to find the baby had fallen off a futon they were sleeping on and hit the floor. Police measured the top of the futon at about seven inches from the floor.

Baby making odd noises?

Zamarripa reportedly told Beermann the baby was making weird noises so he held the baby's head in one hand and swayed him back and forth.

A fall, or even shaking a baby to wake it up, wouldn't cause the injuries Michael suffered, according to Dr. Donald Fields, who is treating the baby at the hospital.

"The consensus of the medical community with regard to shaken baby syndrome is that it is shaking that is not mistakable," Fields said during testimony Wednesday. "It is not, 'My baby -- can you wake up?' or 'You are choking,' or whatever ... the shake is very violent and it generally involves whipping of the arms back and forth and whipping of the legs."

Defense attorney Berthier Maciel noted no one testified to seeing Zamarripa shake the baby like that.

He pointed to the baby's living environment. Burgin acknowledged Thursday the baby was born with methamphetamine in his system, and that while she was clean for a time, she injected herself with the drug Sept. 27 and has used it once every couple of days during the past month.

She was with a friend before 2 a.m. Sept. 28 when she received a call from Zamarripa that something was wrong with the baby and that she should come home.

Deputy District Attorney Valli Israels said: "Her drug use did not contribute to the baby's injuries. His injuries came from shaking, not because his mother used drugs from time to time."

Maciel said: "I think the district attorney's office is going to have a hard time proving beyond a reasonable doubt because of the nefarious nature. ... It's not going to be as cut and dry as they think."

Maciel also disputed the idea his client was even with the baby at the time of injury because Fields said test results pinpoint the injury as occurring within seven days.

In his ruling, Stephenson noted Fields said it was unlikely the child could have survived without getting treatment within minutes of the injuries.

Help with everyday tasks

"This child was just horribly ... injured," Fields testified. "Just horribly. Of all the kids I've taken care of who have survived, this child was just horribly devastated. I do not believe this child would have survived without medical attention within minutes."

If Michael does live, Fields said, he believes he will be left with what most people know as cerebral palsy. Fields testified that Michael probably would need breathing and feeding tubes and help with everyday tasks. He said the boy likely would die in his teens or in early adulthood.

Bee staff writer Inga Miller can be reached at imiller@modbee.com or 599-8760.

Related stories from Modesto Bee