Mother to Be Tried in Infant Endangerment : Courts: The Oxnard woman is accused of dropping 3-month-old girl over a fence onto cement six feet below.
An Oxnard woman accused of dangling her 3-month-old infant over a chain-link fence and dropping the child onto the cement six feet below must stand trial on battery and child endangerment charges, a judge ruled Monday.
Aretha Marcell Chester, 23, reacted with tears and anger as Municipal Judge Herbert Curtis III sent her case to Ventura County Superior Court and set bail at $10,000.
“I can’t see my kids?” Chester asked her lawyer in court after the hearing.
“I have a 3-month-old baby who needs me,” she wailed plaintively. “If I was going to hurt my baby, I would have done it at home, not in public.”
The witnesses who told police she dropped the baby over the fence were “lying on me,” she shouted at her court-appointed attorney, Joel Steinfeld.
Steinfeld declined to say what his client’s defense would be, but said he expected her to plead not guilty at her Aug. 29 arraignment. “She was just having a dispute with the baby’s father,” he said after the hearing.
In court, Steinfeld argued that Chester should be released from jail, so long as she stays away from the child.
But prosecutors argued that Chester had already lost custody of the eldest of her four children. The 3-month-old, her youngest, is now living with Chester’s mother.
Chester’s criminal record includes several past arrests and a conviction for battery, for which she is currently on probation, court officials said.
The baby, Sara Kimbrough, was hospitalized with a fractured skull after the July 31 incident at Sierra Linda Park. The child was released the next day.
Eyewitnesses said they saw Chester and a group of men arguing loudly at the park just outside Oxnard, Oxnard Police Officer Lisa Ragone told the judge Monday. One of the men was the baby’s father.
When the men jumped over the six-foot-high fence and began walking away, Chester dangled the infant over the fence and released her, said a married couple who, with their children, were having a picnic about 150 feet away.
“They were very upset about it,” Ragone told the judge. “They had their four children with them.”
According to the couple’s account and other witnesses, Chester then climbed over the fence and began arguing with the man who had picked up the child, Ragone said.
After receiving several reports of the incident, police found Chester on her way to the hospital. Ragone described Chester as hysterical, saying at one point, “My baby, my baby, I dropped my baby.”
Chester told police that the baby had fallen out of its car seat, the officer said.
Chester did not testify at Monday’s hearing, but expressed disbelief at the testimony given by the police officer.
“People say I can’t see my kids, because I take care of them, because people are lying on me,” she said to her lawyer after the hearing.