FRAZIER PARK, CALIF. (Wednesday, May 26, 2010, 5:51 p.m.)—Ventura County Superior Court Judge Charles Campbell today denied a motion by Jayson Schimmel’s lawyer to dismiss a murder indictment against his client. Schimmel, 33, will return to court on Friday, May 28 for scheduling of his trial.
Schimmel was arrested in March, 2009 in Frazier Park for the murder of his two-and-a-half month old biological son Steven Otto Schimmel, after an investigation by Ventura County Sheriff’s deputies determined that the father was responsible for the baby’s death.
A reprint from the March, 2010 edition of The Mountain Pioneer follows:
Grand Jury Transcript Sheds New Light on Lockwood Valley
A Warning to Our Readers: The following story contains harsh language and blunt information from the Ventura County Grand Jury hearing transcript. We publish this report in the public interest: domestic violence can occur anywhere, and often begins with verbal abuse. It is important to seek assistance. The Alliance Against Family Violence Hot Line is (800) 273-7713. If you or your children are in danger, call for help. You are not alone.
By Alex Wilson
The Lockwood Valley man accused of murdering his two- month-old baby son [in March, 2009] admitted to authorities that he head-butted his son, according to a transcript of a previously secret Ventura County Grand Jury hearing. The transcript was just released in February.
The grand jury indicted 32-year-old Jayson Schimmel on murder charges last October after conducting closed-door hearings in which his Deputy Public Defender Rod Kodman was not allowed to be present. The 171-page transcript is now a public document included in his court file.
Kodman was upset that the case was taken before a grand jury instead of proceeding to a public preliminary hearing where Schimmel’s defense counsel would have an opportunity to cross-examine witnesses. Kodman says he may challenge the indictment in a pre-trial motion.
During two days of testimony the grand jury heard from Elizabeth Hill (the baby’s mother), Ventura County Sher-
iff’s Senior Deputy Ryan Clark, Sheriff’s Detective Scott Peterson and Ventura County Medical Examiner Ronald O’Halloran.
In opening comments, the grand jury foreperson (whose name is concealed from the public) told the panel that Sr. Deputy Clark and his partner Deputy William Hollowell responded to a call of a “baby not breathing” shortly after midnight on March 2, 2009 in the 17500 block of Maple Trail in Lockwood Valley.
Deputies and paramedics performed CPR but could not revive the baby. The child was transported by ambulance and then helicopter to Kern Medical Center in Bakersfield where he was pronounced dead at 2 a.m.
During the autopsy, Dr. O’Halloran observed numerous abrasions and contusions in various stages of healing on the outside of the baby’s body. He also found a fracture to the right side of the child’s skull and a subdural hematoma, the grand jury reported.
O’Halloran ruled the death a homicide and concluded it was caused by blunt force head injury due to battered child syndrome.
Deputy District Attorney Rameen Minoui began his presentation with an overview of the case, saying Elizabeth Hill was 19 years old on the day of the child’s birth and Jayson Schimmel was 32. He said the property included a main house where Jayson’s mother and stepfather resided, as well as a detached building where Jayson, Elizabeth and baby Steven lived.
Minoui told the grand jury that Jayson Schimmel admitted his involvement in the crime to Detective Scott Peterson.
He said Peterson “interviewed Jayson Schimmel and the defendant made many admissions to the subject of this investigation, including the fact that he had head-butted the baby Steven that night, and also threw baby Steven as he was lying on the bed with him backwards where baby Steven’s head struck his knee.”
Minoui told the grand jury that the fatal incident occurred while Elizabeth Hill was running bath water for the baby and then Schimmel called out, “Something’s wrong, something’s wrong,” and she saw the baby gasping for air.
The prosecutor also told the grand jury about an incident two weeks earlier. She woke up from a nap to hear Schimmel screaming at the baby.
“She woke up to hear Jayson Schimmel screaming, holding the baby up to his face and screaming at him, telling him to ‘shut up’ because baby Steven was crying,” said Minoui. “And she saw him grab baby Steven as he’s holding [him] underneath the armpits, face to face, and wrench back the shoulder blades of baby Schimmel, and she began screaming at him ‘Stop! You’re hurting him! Stop! Stop!’”
Minoui said Schimmel then told Hill, “You want him—take him,” and thrust the baby at her before storming out of the residence.
Deputy Clark testified that when he arrived at the property on the night of March 2, he saw Jayson Schimmel in a car outside the residence before realizing his connection to the case. Schimmel directed him toward his mother’s house, where the baby had been taken.
“He was just kind of sitting there,” the deputy said of the father. “He looked pretty calm. I didn’t see a lot of emotion. He was just directing me to the area.”
Clark told the grand jury that Schimmel initially denied hurting the baby. “He explained that he was inside the residence with the child. He said that he was feeding the child a bottle. The baby began to choke, so he explained that he took the child, placed him up against his chest and was lightly patting his back, which I recognized as a
common burping technique,” said Clark.
“He said after choking for a few moments, Steven began crying for about a minute—which is a good sign—and then he said Steven went limp and he took him next door to the main residence and then CPR started,” said Clark.
Minoui asked Clark if there was anything unusual about Jayson Schimmel’s demeanor when he was contacted after the incident and Clark responded, “He seemed to be detached from what was happening. Elizabeth Hill was highly emotional,” said Clark.
Elizabeth Hill described a difficult relationship with Jayson Schimmel during her testimony before the grand jury. She noted many fights and his frequent expression of doubts that he was the baby’s real father.
She said they met at the Flying J in Lebec where she worked as a cashier and he worked as a truck mechanic. “It wasn’t a very healthy relationship to be in,” said Hill. “There was a lot of fighting and I had been hit at least once. But in his honest defense I did hit him first.”
Hill said that after she became pregnant Schimmel broke up with her on her birthday in July, but they got back together in October.
“He called me a whore and a slut and said the baby couldn’t be his. Everything went downhill after the baby was born,” said Hill. She testified that around January or February Jayson Schimmel lost his job and money was tight.
Then one day she woke up from a nap after being up all night with the baby. “I saw him holding my baby…at arms length away from him, screaming to shut up, and when the baby kept crying more and more he said he would give the baby something to cry about and he kept screaming ‘Shut up, shut up,’” said Hill.
Hill testified that Schimmel bought a paternity test to confirm the baby was his, and that when she was still pregnant he said “he wasn’t going to support someone else’s kid.”
Detective Scott Peterson testified about his investigation. He said that while he suspected Schimmel was responsible from the outset, the suspect was treated like any grieving father, to try and gain his confidence. One of their first contacts was when Schimmel left him a voice mail message asking why authorities talked to Elizabeth Hill and not to him.
Schimmel agreed to be interviewed and even suggested himself that he bring a doll to the meeting to show exactly what happened to the baby. Peterson told the grand jury that he planned the theme of his interview to be that the death was accidental and tragic, as a ruse to get Schimmel to come clean about what happened.
The grand jury heard portions of the interviews that were audio and videotaped, but the text of those interviews was not included in the transcript. Peterson told the grand jury that Schimmel used the doll he brought to illustrate the injuries he had inflicted on the baby and said at one point, “I killed my own kid, man,” Peterson reported.
After hearing all the testimony the grand jury indicted Schimmel on three felony counts and one special allegation. The charges are assault on a child causing death, murder and corporal injury to a child. The special enhancement is for domestic violence causing great bodily injury.
Schimmel is being held at the Ventura County Jail on $505,000 bail and his trial date was set for February 25. Kodman said he expects the case will be postponed so the defense can have time to work on pre-trial motions.
This is part of the May 21, 2010 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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