Brother claims baby’s death was an accident

By Andy Jackson

The brother of a Clovis teenager charged in the death of an infant says the death was an accident.

Officials allege Benito Valdez, 16, shook his 4-month-old son before he died Saturday and then lied to police about the incident, court records show. Officials also allege the teen was responsible for a previous incident that left the baby with a fractured bone.

The previous incident happened a few months ago and was under investigation by officials with the Children Youth and Families Department, according to a transcript from a court hearing held Wednesday.

Jesus Mirelez, 26, of Clovis said his brother dropped the baby on Saturday, picked him up and noticed he was convulsing and not breathing — so Valdez shook the baby to get him to breath.

“I talked to him (on Wednesday) at court and he (cried). He (Valdez) said it was an accident. He panicked and freaked and didn’t know what to do. He didn’t seek help because he was scared,” Mirelez said.

Christopher Valdez was found dead late Saturday night by emergency workers summoned to 901 Brady St., where Valdez was living with the child’s mother. An autopsy on the baby’s body was conducted, but results have not been released.

Valdez is charged with child abuse resulting in death of a child, obstructing an abuse report and tampering with evidence, records show.

He is charged as a juvenile, but Prosecutor Andrea Reeb said Wednesday in court Valdez could be charged as an adult, records show. He faces two years in custody if convicted as a juvenile; life in prison if convicted as an adult, District Attorney Matt Chandler has said.

Clovis Police Lt. James Schoeffel said witness statements and interviews led to Valdez’ arrest. Police have not released the report that led to the arrest.

“Additional charges are possible and the case is still open,” Schoeffel said.

Valdez told police Saturday he gave the child Tylenol to calm his cries. The baby’s 19-year-old mother told police the baby fell to the floor off of her chest as she slept on her couch, records show.

Valdez will remain in custody without bond at the Curry County Juvenile Detention Center, where he has been since Monday, pending a grand jury hearing, records show.

Valdez was denied his request to attend his son’s funeral by District Judge Stephen Quinn during Wednesday’s detention hearing, records show.

Valdez told the court he was going to take parenting classes following the incident that involved the baby’s arm, according to the transcript.

Mirelez said he believes his brother should be punished for the baby’s death, but only in the juvenile system.
The baby’s 19-year old mother and Valdez were raising two children together and had dated almost four years, Mirelez said.

“They were talking about marriage — later — they realized they were too young,” Mirelez said.

The couple’s second child, who is about a year old, was taken from the home by CYFD following Saturday’s death, records show.