Matthew Lickona noon, April 23
Escondido man admits misdemeanor child abuse in plea deal
Eight-year-old case charged second-degree murder for death of toddler
On Monday of this week, a mistrial was declared when a jury could not come to unanimous decision in an 8-year-old fatal-child-abuse case against Efrain Cornejo.
After a three-week trial which began on March 5, the jury deadlocked with the vote favoring acquittal, 9-to-3, for a Fallbrook man charged with murder in the death of his girlfriend’s toddler. (Prosecution mentioned that the Sheriff’s detective originally assigned the homicide case in 2005 was “new,” but otherwise the reason for delay of prosecution was not made clear.)
On March 25, the jury declared themselves deadlocked and the judge declared mistrial. All attorneys and the defendant were back before Honorable Harry Elias yesterday to decide the status of the case. The public defender’s office plainly hoped all charges would be dismissed.
On March 27, defendant Efrain Cornejo made a plea deal in which he admitted one misdemeanor count of child endangerment against 14-month-old Breanna, the child who died. In the deal, he got credit for time already served, reportedly three actual years, and is now freed.
As part of the deal, Cornejo, now 29, also admitted possession of cocaine and possession of drug paraphernalia while in custody.
All other charges were dismissed, according to prosecutor Nicole Rooney.
“Due to the length of time he had in custody credits, which exceeded the time he received, he was released with no parole conditions,” the prosecutor said in a statement today.
“Mr. Cornejo was sentenced to three years in prison for the possession of cocaine, one year consecutive for the possession of paraphernalia and one year consecutive for child abuse. Total term is five years. He had enough credits that he should be released today,” prosecutor Nicole Rooney explained.
Efrain Cornejo was taken into custody for possession of cocaine in April 2010. He was later charged for possession of drug paraphernalia while in custody, in September 2012. Evidence during trial suggested Cornejo may have been under influence of methamphetamine at the time of the child’s death.
Efrain Cornejo was 21-years-old when he phoned for help on May 22, 2005, and reported that the 14-month-old child in his care had stopped breathing. Paramedics testified that the girl was already “blue” and cold when they arrived, within minutes of the call that afternoon.
Prosecutors showed photographs of shocking internal injuries to the girl, including a picture of her liver which was broken into three distinct pieces.
Defense attorney Jill Kovaly successfully argued that the baby girl was tragically delicate, with a documented history of poor health including seizures and fevers. Defense suggested that any injuries found on the child later, during autopsy, could have been caused by overly vigorous resuscitation efforts of emergency personnel.
More like this:
- Convicted child abuser skipped before the verdict — Nov. 21, 2013
- Man accused of abuse pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor — July 27, 2013
- Jury favored acquittal for man accused of abuse — July 19, 2013
- Jury favored acquittal for Fallbrook man accused in death of toddler — March 25, 2013
- Fallbrook man accused in death of toddler in his care — March 5, 2013