Jurors began deliberating Thursday afternoon in the murder trial for a Vancouver man accused of causing fatal brain injuries to his infant daughter in 2020.
Elijah I. Partida, 24, is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in Clark County Superior Court, stemming from the Aug. 11, 2020, death of 3-month-old Maja.
During closing arguments, Senior Deputy Prosecutor Kasey Vu said Partida’s aggression toward the baby led to her suffering broken ribs, which were in various stages of healing, seizures, vomiting and multiple brain injuries. Vu argued the only explanation for those injuries would’ve been if she was either shaken or slammed into a cushioned surface, such as a mattress, due to the lack of external bruising.
Vu laid out a timeline, beginning July 28, 2020, when Partida messaged the child’s mother, saying he thought he had been too rough with Maja; he said he thought she had shaken baby syndrome. This exchange occurred two days after the infant’s mother had returned to work, Vu said, meaning Partida would’ve been home alone with her during the day.
Maja’s mother took her to a hospital Aug. 4, 2020, after her symptoms — lack of appetite, vomiting, constipation and fever — persisted. But the baby started to show improvement and was released, court records state.
The baby was in Partida’s care when she became unresponsive Aug. 5, 2020. She suffered cardiac arrest and was rushed first to PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, then to Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Portland, according to court records.
“The defendant, who had sole custody and control of that helpless child, by his conduct, he hurt that child, injured that child to the point she had cardiac arrest and led to a brain injury that was irreversible and ultimately ended her life,” Vu told the jury.
Defense attorney Michele Michalek argued Maja did not suffer shaken baby syndrome. She contended that if Maja had suffered life-threatening injuries, she would not have been released from the hospital Aug. 4, 2020.
Michalek said the baby’s broken ribs were caused by Partida administering CPR when she later went into cardiac arrest. Further, Michalek blamed Maja’s subsequent medical care for exacerbating her brain injury and leading to her death.
“Science doesn’t care what Kasey Vu thinks,” Michalek said.
Michalek said there was not enough certainty around when the infant’s injuries occurred or what caused them to convict Partida of murder or manslaughter.
Vu also showed the jury Partida’s internet search history from July 28, 2020, which included searches for symptoms of shaken baby syndrome and squeezing a baby’s head.
“If he has not done anything to that child when he was alone with her, when she was exhibiting those symptoms, would he have searched those things?” Vu asked the jury.
Michalek explained the search history as that of a naive, first-time father who was insecure about his parenting, particularly after his mother-in-law made comments about his handling of the baby.
The jury is continuing to deliberate Friday.