KENNEWICK, Wa. — A Richland man claims he tried to be a good father for the first few weeks of his son's life, but he "no longer cared" and couldn't control himself when it came to hurting the newborn.
Jose L. Rosas Olivo, 28, told police that he started squeezing his son's head and body at 3 weeks old to either stop or prevent the baby from fussing and crying, according to court documents.
Eventually, he found himself intentionally inflicting pain on his son — from pulling on the newborn's hair and ears or spanking him during diaper changes to throwing the baby into his crib from above the father's stomach and chest height, documents said.
In the last 12 hours of the 5-week-old's life, he reportedly was: thrown twice onto the railing of his crib, landing on his stomach before falling backwards and being caught by his head; squeezed multiple times; and hit on the head by a cellphone when his dad fell asleep while watching videos and dropped the phone.
Rosas Olivo was responsible for his son's care that night, particularly while mom Andrea Ramirez slept from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m.
He claims that the last time he squeezed his little boy, his own shoulder hurt afterwards from pressing too hard.
That same time, the baby stopped moving for two to three seconds before gasping for air, court documents said.
Rosas Olivo said the baby then went to sleep in his crib, and the father went to bed. Hours later he woke up "worried that he hurt (his son) and discovered that he was deceased," documents said.
The couple rushed the boy to Kadlec Regional Medical Center, where nurses and doctors tried life-saving measures on the unresponsive baby.
The boy, identified as "JR" in court documents, was pronounced dead at 5:55 a.m. on Sept. 24. The cause of death was unknown.
On Friday — two weeks after his son's death — Rosas Olivo was arrested by Richland police on suspicion of first-degree assault of a child, a felony.
He appeared Monday in Benton County District Court and was ordered held on $500,000 bail.
Prosecutors have until late Wednesday afternoon to file charges against Rosas Olivo or release him from the county jail.
Medical examiner report
Prosecutor Andy Miller told the Tri-City Herald that his office has not yet received an autopsy report from the Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office.
They hope to have a call with the medical examiner before Wednesday to discuss new information on the case in order to help make the charging decision.
Richland police said the medical examiner's findings included a skull fracture. bleeding under the entire scalp, a damaged liver and multiple broken ribs, several in two places.
When the 5-week-old was declared dead in the Richland emergency room, Benton County Deputy Coroner Nicole Lee requested assistance from Richland police with the death investigation.
Officer Christopher Mason and Detective Cameron Fancher met with the biological parents, who had asked for a chaplain at the hospital but agreed to talk about events leading up to their son's death.
The couple also gave police permission to search their vehicle and the baby's bedroom at their Richland home, court documents said.
Rosas Olivo then gave the story that the baby fell asleep on his lap about 1 a.m. as he was watching videos on his phone.
The father said at some point his hand fell downward and struck the baby on his left temple. The baby was startled but fell back asleep after Rosas Olivo comforted him by patting him on the back, he said.
The father said he put his son to sleep in his crib and fell asleep next to him. He woke around 5 a.m. to feed his son, and noticed the baby was not breathing, was cold to the touch and had vomit on his face and chest.
Rosas Olivo said he attempted CPR by pressing on the baby's chest, followed by mouth-to-mouth breathing.
"Jose stated he never harmed his children and that he did not know what caused JR's death," documents said. "Jose denied any knowledge that JR suffered any traumatic event within the last 72 hours."
The baby's mother said she had been asleep throughout most of the night and did not see Rosas Olivo with the baby for about six hours.
"Andrea stated that she believed she and Jose were good parents who loved their children," documents said. "Andrea stated she never witnessed Jose harm JR nor their daughter."
The mom said her baby had a recent wellness check and appeared to be developing appropriately at 7 pounds.
The couple agreed to do follow-up interviews with police after the initial reports came in from the medical examiner.
'Did not know what to do'
That's when Rosas Olivo admitted squeezing and compressing the baby's back and head with his hands, in an attempt to stop his son from crying, court documents said.
"Jose stated he understood what he was doing was causing pain, however, he stated he was unaware that it would cause an injury," documents said. "Jose stated that the evening before JR's death, he was responsible for JR all night and grew increasingly frustrated with JR's crying."
The father told detectives he was the only one in the household that harmed the baby, and that he was responsible for what happened to him. He later said he made sure to hurt his son only when the baby's mother was out of the room or was not looking.
"Throughout the interview, (Rosas Olivo) cried and held the reenactment doll as though it was his son and apologized for what he did," documents said.
After that interview, he recalled an event in which his son fell from a bed, so he agreed to again meet with police.
Rosas Olivo went to the police station at 10 a.m. Friday and explained that "being a father was stressful and that he suffered from depression," court documents said.
"Jose stated that he was unable to express his frustration to Andrea and that he did not know what to do with JR," documents said. "... When asked to explain why he hurt JR, Jose stated that he 'no longer cared.' Jose cried and spoke softly when he explained his actions towards his son."
The father claimed he had tossed his son into the crib — "in a manner to ensure that JR's head hit the back railing of the crib" — at a minimum of twice daily for the last two weeks of the baby's life.
He said the baby often was swaddled in a blanket when he was tossed, sometimes rotating "like a football," documents said.
"Jose admitted that JR was helpless during these assaults and depended upon Jose for everything. Jose stated he did this often enough that he could not recall how many times it occurred."
He was arrested at 3:30 p.m. after the interview was done.