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Shown here at the funeral for two-month-old Steven Schimmel on March 28, 2009 (l-r) friend Krista Nolan and mother Elizabeth Hill. Hill testified last week at the murder trial of Jayson Schimmel in the death of the baby.
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Little Steven Schimmel was two months old when he died from a massive bleed in his brain due to blunt force trauma to his head, according to the autopsy report. His father, Jayson Schimmel, is on trial for allegedly causing the death of the baby. Subscribers can hear a recording of the interrogation with Jayson Schimmel by the Ventura County investigator (see story at left).
Editor’s Note: The jury trial of the Lockwood Valley man arrested in the death of his baby in March 2009 began last Wednesday, May 11. Jayson Schimmel has been in custody since his arrest, unable to post $505,000 in bail. He has pled “not guilty” to causing the child’s death. Schimmel was indicted by a Ventura County Grand Jury which heard his admission to authorities that he head-butted his two-month-old son. The transcript of that statement was revealed when Ventura
County Public Defender Rod Kodman appealed the indictment, saying the grand jury was not told that Schimmel had withdrawn his confession and now alleges the mother caused the baby’s injuries. The argument was rejected by the California Appellate Court in July 2010.
Special audio reports by our Ventura reporter Alex Wilson are available to www.MountainEnterprise.com subscribers by arrangement with KVTA. Click here to listen to a Ventura County homicide investigator’s interrogation of Jayson Schimmel.
Below is trial coverage by arrangement with the Ventura County Star.
By Raul Hernandez, Special to The Mountain Enterprise by arrangement with The Ventura County Star
A Lockwood Valley man who is accused of killing his two-month-old baby heard his former girlfriend give emotional testimony Wednesday about what happened on the night the couple’s baby went limp, stopped breathing and was rushed to the hospital.
Jayson Schimmel, 35 is on trial in Ventura County Superior Court for murder, assault on a child causing death and willfully inflicting great bodily injury on a child.
Elizabeth Hill, 19 who testified for hours Wednesday [May 11], said she was preparing to bathe the baby in the bathroom on March 2, 2009 when Schimmel called out to her.
“It’s happening. It’s happening again,” Hill said Schimmel told her in a voice laden with panic.
The baby named Steven was coughing, gagging and had problems breathing, Hill testified. She said Schimmel was holding him over his shoulder and patting him on his back.
Hill said a similar coughing and gagging incident with Steven had occurred two weeks earlier.
Hill took the baby from Schimmel. “I was saying (to the baby) it’s going to be OK.” But the baby looked lifeless, she said.
“Steven went limp. I mean my son didn’t move. He was just like a rag doll,” Hill said, and began crying on the stand.
As she spoke, Schimmel was slumped in his seat, the side of his head resting on his hand and his eyes downcast. He wiped away some tears.
The autopsy showed the baby died of blunt force trauma and the cause of death was homicide. Jurors heard the 911 call that Hill made to report that her son was unconscious and had stopped breathing. She was hysterical, crying and barely able to speak.
After the paramedics arrived and took [the infant] to the hospital, Hill said Schimmel sat on the bed, took off his shoes and sat there. Hill said she asked him if he was going to the hospital. She testified Schimmel said he wasn’t going and for her to tell him what happened after she got there.
Shortly after she arrived at the hospital, an emergency room doctor told her Steven had died on the way to the hospital.
“He just asked if I wanted to see him and that was it,” she said crying. Hill said she wasn’t allowed to hold Steven, just touch and stroke his hair.
Under cross examination by Schimmel’s lawyer, Rod Kodman, Hill was asked about the baby’s daily care and hygiene, including what he ate, how many diaper changes he required and how often he was bathed.
Hill also said Schimmel cried when Steven was born, took him to church once and took him to the park in a stroller.
Earlier, Hill admitted writing a letter after Steven’s death that was never sent to Schimmel and that he never read.
“We lost our baby, and I don’t want to lose the man I love very much,” the letter stated. Portions of it were read to jurors by prosecutor Rameen Minoui.
Hill said the letter was “just her way of venting things.” She told jurors she wanted to deny her baby had died and to believe everything was fine.
Hill, who is now pregnant with her current boyfriend’s child, said she is now angry at Schimmel for what he did.
“I just wonder how he can wake up every morning knowing what he did,” Hill said.
On Thursday, Defense Attorney Kodman put the child’s mother through an intense barrage of questions about what she knew and what she did to protect her 2-month-old son.
During cross examination, Kodman asked prosecution witness Hill about the bruises she didn’t see on her baby’s body while changing, bathing and feeding him. Earlier, Kodman asked why she never called police to report Schimmel’s alleged domestic abuse.
Hill, 19, who lived with the defendant, said she never saw him punch the baby, throw him on the bed or bang him at the diaper-changing table.
The baby had 32 separate rib fractures, which occurred days or more than a week before the homicide, according to the autopsy. Also there were four or five fresh head injuries and numerous bruises.
Schimmel met Hill at the Flying J truck stop in Lebec where they both worked. He was 31 years old and she was 17 when they began their relationship. They moved into the guesthouse near Schimmel’s parents’ house in Lockwood Valley, according to court testimony.
Schimmel was fired in February 2009 from the Petro Lube and the couple was having financial problems, compounded by a $1,700 maternity services bill from the hospital, according to court testimony.
Kodman questioned Hill’s statements to detectives, asking how many times she changed her story and why she had lied to police about what happened.
Hill testified that she once woke up after a nap and saw Schimmel standing five feet away, abusing the baby. She said she screamed at Schimmel to stop.
“He was pressing his thumbs into his [Steven’s] shoulders and squeezing,” she said. Hill testified that Steven’s shoulder blades were going back to his spine.
When asked by Kodman if she reported it to police, the doctor or if she left the guesthouse, she said no. She said she discussed it with Schimmel’s mother.
Hill said she was aware of the rumors that she had tripped and landed on the baby, but said she never told detectives about the rumor.
“It wasn’t true then, and it wasn’t true now,” Hill told Kodman.
Hill testified that on July 2, 2008, she left in the middle of the night with two males to celebrate her birthday. She said Schimmel was angry and threw her stuff out. She moved into the house of one of the males.
She testified that she got harassing and threatening calls from Schimmel. Three months later, Hill broke up with her male friend and had to leave his house. Hill said she was seven months pregnant and had no choice but to go back to the guesthouse with Schimmel.
Loretta Blust, a close friend of Hill’s who took care of the baby, testified that she saw old bruises on Steven when she took care of him on a Friday.
“It looked like thumb print,” Blust said.
Blust said she took care of the baby so her daughter, who is Hill’s friend, could go with Hill to find financial help and shelter so she could move out of the guesthouse. The following Monday, Blust said she learned that Steven had died.
This is part of the May 20, 2011 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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