Testimony: York baby beaten to death, allegedly by father
The father of an 11-month-old boy who died nearly five years ago had no visible reaction Wednesday as he sat in court and listened to a forensic pathologist tick off the litany of injuries the baby suffered — and which were the cause of his death.
Yohan Ramirez-Herrera, 31, is charged with homicide in the Oct. 4, 2011, death of son Yohandi Ramirez. At the close of the defendant's preliminary hearing Wednesday morning, District Judge Joel Toluba determined enough evidence exists for Ramirez-Herrera to stand trial in York County Court.
Yohandi suffered three skull fractures, brain bleeding and brain damage, a spinal-cord injury to his neck, 21 rib fractures that mostly were between three and eight weeks old, a healing upper-arm fracture, bleeding in his eyes and numerous bruises all over his head and back, according to testimony from Dr. Wayne Ross, a forensic pathologist with the Dauphin County Coroner's Office.
"This child had multiple impacts to the head," Ross said, and he also was strangled. Ross testified he ruled the death a homicide, with the cause being multiple traumatic injuries.
Yohandi was taken to York Hospital Oct. 1, 2011, and almost immediately flown by medical helicopter to Hershey Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead three days later, according to testimony.
Left before baby died: York County Detective Dana Ward testified he began investigating. At the time, Ward was a York City Police detective first class in charge of the department's child-abuse and sex-crimes unit.
"I learned that ... the defendant had left the country," Ward testified, adding Ramirez-Herrera flew to the Dominican Republic from JFK Airport on Oct. 3, 2011.
"So he left the United States before Yohandi was pronounced dead?" chief deputy prosecutor David Sunday asked.
"Yes, sir," Ward confirmed.
After the hearing, Sunday told The York Dispatch that despite the "very aggressive" intervention of the U.S. Marshals Service, it took years to have Ramirez-Herrera extradited from the Dominican Republic, even after marshals knew his location in that country. In fact, the defendant was in custody six to eight months there before being extradited, Sunday said.
No death penalty: Part of the extradition agreement required the York County District Attorney's Office to agree not to seek the death penalty against Ramirez-Herrera, Sunday said. He confirmed the death penalty "absolutely" was under consideration prior to that agreement. Had the prosecution not agreed, Ramirez-Herrera would not have been extradited, Sunday said.
Also testifying at Wednesday's hearing was Yohandi's mother, Celinas Monegra, who said she, her two sons and the defendant all shared one bedroom in the apartment of her mother and stepfather, located in the first block of South Penn Street.
Through a Spanish-speaking interpreter, Monegra said she got out of the shower on Sept. 29, 2011, and saw Ramirez-Herrera holding Yohandi, who was purple and not breathing.
Ramirez-Herrera did CPR on the baby, who began breathing again, she said. But Ramirez-Herrera would not allow her to call 911 or even leave their bedroom for two days, with the exception of a quick trip to pick up food, she said.
No phone: "I didn't have a phone," she said, and she had no access to a computer.
"I wanted to get help, but he wouldn't let me out of the room," she said. Charging documents allege Ramirez-Herrera was very controlling of Monegra and used violence to maintain that control. Those documents also allege he tried to convince her to have an abortion when she was pregnant with Yohandi.
Although Yohandi was breathing again he was not active, Monegra testified. Ramirez-Herrera would not allow visiting friends and family members to see the baby, she said.
On Oct. 1, 2011, Yohandi stopped breathing again, and Ramirez-Herrera picked him up, according to Monegra.
"That's when I was able to get out of the bedroom," she testified. "I told my mom Yohandi couldn't breathe and I called 911."
Didn't wait: While she was on the phone with 911, Ramirez-Herrera left their home with Yohandi, she said.
"He just took off, with only the Pamper on the baby. He left for the hospital. He didn't wait for the ambulance to come."
After the medical helicopter picked up Yohandi to fly him to Hershey Medical Center, Ramirez-Herrera drove Monegra there, she said. Once at the Hershey-area hospital, he admitted hurting their baby, she testified.
"He told me that I was a good mother and he was responsible ... that he had hit the child," Monegra said, adding Ramirez-Herrera indicated he was going to look for an attorney.
Two days later, he left the country, police said.
— Reach Liz Evans Scolforo at firstname.lastname@example.org.