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updated: 3/29/2011 6:39 AM

Aurora dad guilty in infant daughter's death

Man shook, threw his infant child in murder case

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  • Joel Z. Chavez

    Joel Z. Chavez


More than two years after losing her infant daughter, Lupe Chavez saw a DuPage County judge convict her husband of their child's death.

"I just think justice was served," the teary-eyed woman said moments after her husband, Joel, was found guilty of the January 2009 murder of 5-month-old Julyssa Chavez.

Without comment on the case, DuPage County Judge George Bakalis convicted Joel Z. Chavez of first-degree murder and aggravated battery to a child. The 28-year-old Chavez was accused of shaking and throwing the infant onto a bed on Jan. 12, 2009, inside the family's Aurora home. Julyssa died the next day from multiple injuries to her head and body.

During Monday's brief court appearance, Chavez showed little emotion and looked down as he learned of the decision by Bakalis. Chavez could be sentenced to 20 to 60 years in prison.

Despite his client's apparent lack of emotion in court, defense attorney Steven Muslin says Chavez was taking the verdict "the same way anybody I know would feel if they were convicted of something they felt they didn't do."

Muslin said Chavez never meant to injure his daughter when he shook her and threw her onto a bed. "Nor did he realize or know that what he was doing while he was trying to quiet the kid was going to cause death or great bodily harm," Muslin said.

But during closing arguments, prosecutors said Chavez was a "stressed" and "angry" man who was unhappy with his life. They say he intentionally took it out on the child, whose injuries were consistent with child abuse.

Prosecutors said Julyssa was fine when she and her sister were left home alone with Chavez. The mother was taking her 14-year-old son to a dentist appointment in Chicago.

But when she refused a bottle and started crying, prosecutors said, Chavez started shaking the child to quiet her because "he couldn't stand it anymore."

Lupe Chavez called 911 after getting several calls from her husband. Paramedics arrived to find Julyssa unresponsive and barely breathing. She had severe head trauma, brain swelling and arm and rib fractures.

"In taking the life of his defenseless little girl, who never even got to celebrate her first birthday, Mr. Chavez secured his own fate behind bars," DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin said in a statement.

Joel Chavez's next court appearance is scheduled for April 25.

Guilty: Prosecutors say man took out his frustration on baby