As his sister trotted off to a federal-prison stretch in Texas, Michael David Balderas took over the care of his niece Baby Jo Jade in October 2005.
The 2-and-a-half-year-old may have been better off alone.
She's dead now.
A jury has found 33-year-old Cypress resident Balderas guilty of second-degree murder and assault on a child with force likely to produce death.
He faces a possible sentence of 25 years to life in state prison at a Feb. 22 hearing in Santa Ana.
Prosecutors convinced jurors that Balderas had been beating Baby Jo Jade with his hand and belt ever since he received custody of her.
On March 30, 2006, he became angered because she was crying and had wetted her clothes.
So, he beat her to death.
The Orange County district attorney's office statement on the conviction follows:
January 25, 2011
UNCLE CONVICTED OF MURDERING 2½-YEAR-OLD NIECE AFTER RECEIVING SOLE CUSTODY AND BEATING HER WITH HAND AND BELT
SANTA ANA – An uncle was convicted today of murdering his 2½-year-old
niece by repeatedly beating her with his hand and belt after gaining
custody and becoming the victim's sole caretaker. Michael David
Balderas, 33, Cypress, was found guilty by a jury of one felony count of
second degree murder and one felony count of assault on a child with
force likely to produce death. He now faces a maximum sentence of 25
years to life in state prison at his sentencing Feb. 22, 2011, at 9:00
a.m. in Department C-40, Central Justice Center, Santa Ana.
In October 2005, Balderas received custody of his 2½-year-old niece Baby
Jo Jade because his sister was preparing to serve a federal prison
sentence in Texas. In January 2006, the defendant brought the victim to
live with him in Cypress. He was unemployed and the sole caretaker of
Baby Jo Jade. The defendant's girlfriend also lived in the house, but
was not home during the day because she worked as a school teacher.
Between January and March 2006, Balderas physically abused Baby Jo Jade by inflicting blunt force to her body.
On March 30, 2006, Balderas became angry that the victim was crying and
having bladder and bowel accidents. The defendant repeatedly beat Baby
Jo Jade with his hand and a belt. Late that afternoon, Balderas called
his girlfriend and asked her to come home. When Balderas' girlfriend
arrived, she found the victim unresponsive, called 911, and took the
baby and defendant to the hospital immediately.
Hospital personnel were unable to resuscitate Baby Jo Jade, who was
pronounced dead as a result of internal bleeding caused by blunt force
trauma and repeated injury.
Senior Deputy District Attorney Mike Murray of the Homicide Unit is prosecuting this case.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.