Two parents accused of leaving their baby boy unattended in a hot car overnight this past summer appeared in court Tuesday as their preliminary hearing continued.
Jessica Quezada and Israel Soto face child endangerment charges in the incident that resulted in the death of their 4-month-old baby boy, Giovanni Soto.
Giovanni died on Jul. 27 after sitting inside a hot, parked car for 15 hours overnight just outside his parents’ apartment in the 500-block of North Mollison Avenue in El Cajon.
A medical examiner’s report obtained by NBC 7 earlier this month revealed that the infant had a body temperature of 107 degrees at the time of his death.
The preliminary hearing for the parents began last week. Evidence is being presented so a judge can determine whether or not the case will go to trial.
Last week in court, Quezada and Soto could be seen tearing up as the baby’s uncle described what he saw on Jul. 27 when he discovered his nephew had been left inside the sweltering vehicle.
According to investigators, Quezada and Soto left Giovanni in the car overnight after returning home from a shopping trip. The infant was discovered inside the car the following day by other family members.
Prosecutors said Quezada was allegedly smoking marijuana with her brother just six feet away from the vehicle while her baby boy was dying.
However, Quezada’s defense attorney says the young mother – who has three other children all under the age of 4 – was overwhelmed and simply made a tragic mistake.
“She didn’t know that Giovanni hadn’t been brought upstairs,” claimed defense attorney Bart Sheela on Tuesday. “Somehow, he was just forgotten in the car.”
Deputy District Attorney Carlos Campbell argued that Quezada knew the baby was in the car, especially since she allegedly smoked marijuana near the vehicle a couple of hours before the unresponsive infant was found.
Still, Sheela said the defendant is a good parent.
“She’s a good mother. In the car, there is a folder that has all of the birth certificates for each of the children, all of the immunization records for each of the children. They have regular pediatrician visits,” said Sheela. “Everyone says she’s a good, caring, wonderful mother, and this has just devastated her.”
However, Campbell said the parents have proven they are unfit.
“No reasonable person would do the things that these parents did between 12 to 14 hours while the 4-month-old was sitting in the car seat in the back of the car,” said Campbell.
In August, both parents pleaded not guilty to the charge of child endangerment resulting in a death.
Quezada has also been charged with felony possession of methamphetamine, according to officials.
If convicted, both Soto and Quezada face a maximum of 12 years in prison. Quezada could serve an additional eight months if convicted of the drug charge too.
Right after being taken into custody, the parents each posted $100,000 bail. They have remained free ever since. The couple’s three other children have been taken into protective custody.
According to that ME report obtained by NBC 7 earlier this month, “many stories were being told to investigating officers” about Giovanni’s death, which made the investigation challenging.
The report said Quezada had insisted Giovanni had been taken out of the car the night before he died, but this conflicted with evidence and witness statements at the scene.
An ME investigator noted in the report that Quezada “could not tell me how or why her son” was put back in the car and left there until Jul. 27.