Monday, August 20, 2007

Boy Was Collateral in Meth Deal

South Bay couple charged in torture of 22-month-old
Bruises cover boy's entire body; DA calls abuse 'one of the most extreme cases we've seen'
Linda Goldston, Contra Costa Times

After a stormy two-month relationship, a South Bay couple was arraigned Friday on charges of abusing and torturing the woman's 22-month-old son so severely that he had injuries from his head to his toes and will need several kinds of medical treatment indefinitely.

Julia Acosta, 20, of San Jose and Baltazar Martinez, 26, of Milpitas, face life sentences if convicted of the charges. Martinez faces an additional charge of felony domestic abuse.

"We believe this is one of the most extreme cases we've seen in Santa Clara County," said Dan Nishigaya, Santa Clara County supervising deputy district attorney, family violence division. "We have accused both of them for being responsible for the injuries to the child."

Nishigaya said the torture charge was included because of the severity of the injuries, which include bruises of varying colors -- yellow, black, blue, purple and red -- over the boy's entire body, and major trauma to the boy's genitals, according to police reports.

The toddler's head and eyebrows had been shaved, his eyelashes cut and there were two burns, possibly caused by a meth pipe, on the boys' left arm and back, the reports said.

In statements to police, Acosta and Martinez deny hurting the child but accuse each other of doing it. At one point, police said, Acosta said the boy had been taken by a drug dealer "as collateral" for a drug debt she and Martinez owed. At another time, she said the countless bruises on her son's body were caused by a "3-year-old known as Gordo who played rough."

The couple had known each other for about seven months and had dated for about two months, living in various motels in San Jose and Milpitas, they told police.

Martinez is not the boy's father. According to police reports on the case, Jon Holmberg "is reportedly the father" of the victim. He is currently in custody at Elmwood for unrelated offenses.

Authorities learned about the boy's injuries on Aug. 7, after Acosta and her mother, Melisa McElvain, took him to Valley Medical Center. Earlier that day, McElvain received a call from her niece about bruising on her grandchild. The niece was with Acosta at a house in Campbell.

McElvain told police that her daughter "was irate," and would not let her mother touch or see the boy. McElvain said the boy was covered with a blanket, but she could still see bruises on the boy's face and burns on his arm.

After driving to the hospital with her mother and baby, Acosta disappeared from the emergency room, saying she needed to go get something. McElvain saw her driving away with Martinez in his white Ford pickup, according to police reports.

That didn't stop doctors from continuing their examination of Acosta's son. The boy was in such bad shape that one of the doctors didn't want police to see him that day "due to his emotional outbursts and visible fear when in the presence of strangers," according to a police report.

On Aug. 13, investigators received a tip that Acosta was at a house in Campbell and immediately went there. Acosta agreed to accompany them to the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office.

Authorities said Acosta told officers she had tried to get away from Martinez the day before, but he "forced her back into his truck and slammed the truck door on her."

She also said that any time she tried to defend the boy by standing in front of him, even picking her child up, "she would be punched in the head and knocked out," one police report states. She described Martinez "as a monster."

After initially denying that Martinez had hurt her child, Acosta said, "Martinez first started hitting" him about 11/2 months before "and the hitting got bad about three weeks ago." She said it got worse because Martinez was smoking more methamphetamine.

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