A Buena Park man who bit his girlfriend's 18-month-old baby boy and four days later wrapped the toddler up in a bedsheet to suffocate him was found guilty by a Santa Ana jury of murder Tuesday.
Cheyenne Mateo Fuimaono, 23, faces a maximum sentence of 31 years to life in state prison after being convicted of felony second degree murder, assault on a child resulting in death and child abuse.
During the evening of Nov. 26, 2012, Fuimaono was sleeping with his girlfriend and the baby, Malik Perez, at the home they shared with the man's parents in the 6800 block of San Benito Way, Buena Park. While they were sleeping, the toddler began scratching his ear and Fuimaono bit Malik's arm, leaving visible marks.
Police received a call just before 1:30 p.m. Nov. 30, 2012, that Malik was not breathing at the residence. Officers arrived to find Fuimaono, who was caring for the child, trying to apply CPR with the instructions of an emergency dispatcher. Cops took over the life-saving until paramedics arrived and took the child, who was still unresponsive and not breathing, to Western Medical Center.
Hospital staff managed to revive the child, who was breathing on his own before being transferred to Childrens Hospital of Orange County (CHOC), where Orange County Social Services at the hospital informed police about "suspicious bruises" on the boy. Officers were told at CHOC that Malik had been placed on life support and had been declared brain-dead.
Fuimaono later admitted to detectives that he inflicted the injuries that contributed to the boy's deteriorating condition, having wrapped Malik in a bedsheet, covering the baby's face and leaving the child unattended in a bedroom. After the child's death, Fuimaono was booked for murder.
Fuimaono, who was not the father of the boy, told investigators Malik was "spoiled'' because he was "fussy … and cries a lot," prosecutor Steve McGreevy told jurors. The defendant also disclosed he had anger management issues that he self-medicated with marijuana until about a week before Malik died, McGreevy added.
Upset over Malik's crying interrupting his leisure time, Fuimaono would put his hand over the baby's mouth, which inhibited the boy's breathing to the point of the child "seizing up," McGreevy said. Once while holding his hand over Malik's mouth, the toddler bit Fuimaono, prompting the adult to "pop him in the chin," according to the prosecutor.
Fuimaono is said to have told investigators that the bite mark on Malik's right arm came while the child was playing at Chuck E Cheese.
During the trial, defense attorney Rick Vallejo accused investigators of having developed "tunnel vision," never focusing on any other possible suspects but his client.
"If you look for something hard enough, you will find it. Those words are the theme of this case," Vallejo said. "Sometimes terrible things happen and no one is to blame."
Sentencing is set for July 17.