A Paso Robles woman will face trial for allegedly killing her 31⁄2-month-old baby last year, a judge ruled Tuesday. San Luis Obispo Superior Court Judge Jacquelyn Duffy found sufficient evidence at a preliminary hearing to proceed to a trial against Erin Christine Martin.
Martin, 43, has pleaded not guilty to the charges of murder and assaulting a child under 8 years old resulting in death. She is scheduled to return to Duffy’s courtroom Nov. 2 for a further arraignment.
The baby, Grace, died June 18, 2010, two days after her mother called 911 about 20 to 30 minutes after she’d discovered the child was unresponsive, according to testimony from law enforcement officials.
The child was treated at Twin Cities Community Hospital in Templeton and then taken to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital before she was pronounced dead.
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Medical examiner Gary Walter testified at the hearing that a homicide occurred, in his opinion, because of a pool of blood in the child’s abdomen that would indicate there was blunt-force trauma. San Luis Obispo County Sheriff-Coroner investigator Jeff Nichols testified that Martin said she’d cared for the child that day, but she gave him no indication of any injury consistent with the autopsy results.
Nichols testified that police also found a mostly consumed bottle of gin at the Paso Robles home where Martin was staying. Investigators indicated she was drunk when they responded to the incident, Nichols testified.
But Martin’s attorney, Kenneth Cirisan, argued the baby was dealt a terrible hand of health problems in her short life.
That included whooping cough, pneumonia and a respiratory virus infection in the weeks leading to her death, according to medical records.
Grace Martin spent a month at a hospital at UCLA being treated for her condition, according to medical documentation that Nichols discussed in his testimony. She was discharged June 6, 2010, less than two weeks before her death.
Evidence showed investigators shouldn’t have ruled out that the baby could have died from health complications and that injuries to her abdomen could have resulted from cardio-pulmonary resuscitation conducted by Erin Martin and a police officer who arrived at the scene, Cirisan argued.
“Here’s a woman that stayed with her child for over four weeks at the hospital at UCLA and then she brings the kid home and hits and kills her?” Cirisan said. “That doesn’t make sense.”
But San Luis Obispo County Deputy District Attorney Jesse Marino argued that medical examiner Gary Walter determined that the death unequivocally was caused by blunt-force trauma to the child’s abdomen.
Marino argued that evidence showed a ruptured intestine and other findings in the autopsy reasonably couldn’t have occurred from chest compressions to revive the child.
Duffy said a number of points in the evidence led to her ruling, including the delay in the 911 call and the nature of the baby’s injuries.