Man pleads guilty in son’s death

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

An 18-year-old Clovis man pleaded guilty Monday to intentional child abuse resulting in the death of his 4-month-old son.

Prosecutors intend to seek adult sanctions against Benito Valdez, who was 16 at the time of his son’s death, District Attorney Matt Chandler said.

“The state will encourage the court to sanction the juvenile as an adult for his crime, and we are also fully prepared to fully advocate that the defendant receive the maximum sentence for the murder of baby Christopher,” Chandler said.

“He’s facing life, and that’s what we will push for,” he said.

A hearing will be held in 60 days to determine if Valdez will be sentenced as an adult, in which case he could face a maximum of life in prison, Chandler said.

If sentenced as a juvenile, Valdez would be remanded to the care of Children, Youth and Families and released at 21, Chandler said.
The plea came prior to the beginning of jury selection for a five-day trial, scheduled this week.

The infant was found dead Jan. 14, 2006, when emergency responders were called in reference to an unconscious child at a home shared by Valdez and the baby’s mother. The child was declared dead at the scene, police records show.

An autopsy identified severe blunt force trauma to the head as the cause of death.

In prior court proceedings, prosecutors alleged Valdez had previously caused a bone fracture to the child, an incident that was under investigation by the department of Children, Youth and Families at the time of the infant’s death, court records show. The incident was included in the charges Valdez pleaded to, Chandler said.

The baby’s mother, Dellia Romero, told police she had fallen asleep with the child on her chest and he had fallen to the floor, a police report said.

Valdez’ brother previously told the CNJ he had talked to his brother who told him he accidentally dropped the child, and when he stopped breathing and started convulsing, he shook him, trying to make Christopher breathe again.

Romero, 20, is charged with harboring or aiding a felon and failure to report child abuse. She is scheduled for a hearing May 4, records show.

Chandler said she faces a maximum of 2 1/2 years imprisonment.

Romero could not be located for comment.