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Fugitive in Lathrop toddler's 2008 death arrested | Crime

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Fugitive in Lathrop toddler's 2008 death arrested
Crime

STOCKTON, CA - A Lathrop man who fled the day his 2009 child abuse death trial started is back in custody, awaiting sentencing after being convicted of causing the death of his girlfriend's toddler son.

Mario Martinez Pena, 26, was arrested recently by U.S. Marshals in Mexico where he was living with relatives, said San Joaquin County sheriff's spokesman Deputy Les Garcia.

Pena was accused of abusing 11-month-old Jacob Leon on Feb. 4, 2008. The boy's mother, Pena's girlfriend, had left him in Pena's care. Pena claimed he had been giving the boy a bath and left him standing when he went to answer the phone. He told emergency responders he heard a noise and returned to the bathroom to find the little boy lying on his back in the bathtub.

According to Garcia, Pena said he tried to revive the child by rubbing his stomach. He put him in a diaper and left him with his parents to go pick up his girlfriend, the boy's mother. He said when he returned, there was an ambulance at the house to take the boy to the hospital.

Jacob Leon's injuries were so severe he was taken by air ambulance form a local hospital to Oakland Children's hospital. Medical staff noted the boy's injuries were more in line with a severe beating than a fall. He did not survive.

Pena was arrested and posted bail.

The day Pena's trial for Jacob Leon's murder began, Oct. 27, 2009, he disappeared, leaving behind a suicide note saying his body wouldn't be found, Garcia said.

The trial continued, with the jury finding Pena guilty of child abuse resulting in death, infliction of great bodily injury with a special allegation of death; felony child abuse/endangerment and felony corporal injury to a child.

Sentencing for Pena has been set for Friday, Sept. 21. He faces 25 years to life in prison, according to Garcia.

Crime

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