The mother-in-law of a Simi Valley man accused in the death of his infant son testified Thursday that she cautioned him to be more careful with the baby two weeks before the baby died.
Tracy Duran said she became angry with Brian Trelatsky, the husband of her daughter, Catherine, when she spotted a bruise on the child's forehead at a family picnic. Duran said her daughter told her that Trelatsky accidentally knocked the baby's head on a door jamb while taking care of his two sons in his parents' Simi Valley mobile home.
"I asked Brian, 'How could this happen?' [The baby] was such a tiny little guy," Duran said. "I said, 'You need to be more careful with him. This can't happen again.' "
Duran also testified, however, that Trelatsky was a gentle father who clearly loved his children.
The testimony was part of a preliminary hearing to determine whether Trelatsky should stand trial for the March 2000 death of 10-week-old Tyler.
He is charged with child abuse causing death, which carries a maximum penalty of 25 years to life.
Trelatsky was arrested in connection with Tyler's death after a six-month investigation. An autopsy showed that Tyler died from trauma caused by impact, shaking or a combination of the two. His father was the sole caregiver at the time of his death.
Other witnesses Thursday--including Catherine Trelatsky and Brian Trelatsky's parents, Kathy and Thomas Trelatsky--described him as an attentive, loving father.
Almost from birth, they said, Tyler often would gasp for air and had trouble drinking from a bottle. Doctors told the couple the boy was not seriously ill.
On the stand Thursday, the boy's grandparents also said they never saw any physical abuse of Tyler or his 2-year-old brother, Scottie, by either parent.
Kathy Trelatsky said she spoke to her son on the phone minutes before Tyler was rushed to Simi Valley Hospital. Later, she asked him what happened.
"He said he was feeding Tyler and he started choking and breathing funny, and then all of a sudden he went limp," she said.
On Wednesday, Catherine Trelatsky--the baby's mother--testified that Scottie could have inflicted some of Tyler's injuries, describing incidents in which the older boy hit the infant on the head and jumped on top of him.
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Todd Howeth on Thursday, she detailed the last days of Tyler's life. In response to Howeth's questions, she repeatedly said she never hurt her baby and did not know how the injuries that caused his death occurred.