Aug. 23—POTTSVILLE — The trial of a Bethlehem man charged with breaking the femur of his then-girlfriend's 2-year-old son in Minersville in 2019 began Monday in Schuylkill County Court.
Carlos Jerel Cruz, 29, is charged with one felony count of aggravated assault and one misdemeanor count each of endangering the welfare of children, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.
Minersville police Patrolman Jeffrey Bowers charged Cruz with an incident at 420 Lewis St., where he was staying with the child's mother, Cindia Jaramillo, between Aug. 31 and Sept. 1, 2019.
Jaramillo, 30, told the court that she was working as an entertainer at Platinum Plus, a gentleman's club in Allentown, when Cruz called her and said that her son had a bump on his head after climbing over a child safety gate and falling down a set of stairs. The woman also said Cruz sent her a picture of the gate.
She recalled telling Cruz to examine the boy more thoroughly. She went back to work after being told he was fine, with the exception of the bump, and that the boy was once again sleeping.
Jaramillo said she returned home around 3:30 a.m. Sept. 1 to find her son fast asleep. She was getting ready for bed around 5:30 a.m. when her son began screaming.
She checked his diaper but noticed swelling on his leg, and she and Cruz took the child to Lehigh Valley Hospital — Schuylkill E. Norwegian Street.
Jaramillo said medical staff determined the child had a fractured left femur and a decision was made to transfer him to Lehigh Valley Hospital, Cedar Crest.
Jaramillo said that at the Pottsville hospital and again at Cedar Crest she told doctors and nurses she was at home when the incident happened, even though she was not.
She said she lied because she was scared of losing custody of her son because of prior interactions with Berks County Children & Youth Services in which she was found to have not protected her children due to work, and that there were no incidents of physical abuse.
She told the court that Cruz did not tell her to lie and that she did not tell the truth because of the previous interactions.
Under questioning by Assistant District Attorney David Noon, Jaramillo said she told the same lie to investigators and during an interview with state police Cpl. Wesley Levan.
It was only in the second interview with Levan that she said she "came clean" and told him she was at work when the child was injured.
Under cross-examination by Assistant Public Defender Hank J. Clarke, Jaramillo said she had no reason to doubt Cruz's story.
"You believed he fell down the steps," Clarke asked.
"Yes," the woman replied.
Under questioning, Jaramillo told Clarke that she has three other children ages 13, 11 and 9.
She said the 11-year-old was taken from her by children and youth services when the girl was 6 or 7 and has since been adopted.
The youngest, she said, was taken from her when the girl was about 4 months old and now lives with her grandmother. Jaramillo said children and youth services at the time said she abused the child.
As to the child with the broken leg, Clark said that prior testimony revealed the victim often wets his diaper during the overnight hours and has to be changed several times.
He questioned Jaramillo about her testimony that the child's diaper was dry when she returned home from work but around 5:30 a.m. found it wet.
Clark asked Jaramillo if it is possible the child was screaming because of a wet diaper and not because he had been abused and injured by Cruz.
He then asked Jaramillo if in fact she became upset after finding the wet diaper, was extremely tired and became angry.
"It is possible you got physical with him?" he asked.
If the child had such a severe injury, how he could be sleeping soundly when she got home around 3:30 a.m. and then began screaming uncontrollably around 5:30 a.m.? Clark asked.
Asked if Cruz had any contact with the child after she returned home around 3:30 a.m. the woman said he did not.
"You decided to break his leg in a fit of anger," Clark told Jaramillo.
Levan told the court that he conducted two interviews each with Jaramillo and Cruz.
In the first, Jaramillo told him that her son fell down the steps around 9:30 a.m. while she and Cruz were in the house, Levan said. In the second, she changed her story, Levan said.
"She told me she was not being truthful with me" and said that she was at work at the time, he said.
"The second version was a complete 180," Levan said.
Cruz said that he was the only adult inside the home during the time period, heard a thump and found the child had fallen down the stairs.
Levan also recalled Cruz telling him that "most of the story is true," referring to the part of Jaramillo being home at the time being incorrect.
The corporal also said Cruz denied hurting the boy.
"He denied any involvement or causing the injury," said Levan, adding that the man stuck to his story throughout the interview.
Also testifying were Beth Wetzel and Trudy Witmer, who at the time were employed at Lehigh Valley Hospital — Schuylkill E. Norwegian St.
Both confirmed the injury to the child's left leg and the decision to transfer the child.
Prosecutors will continue to present their case when the trial resumes at 9 a.m. Tuesday before Judge Christopher W. Hobbs.
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