A 29-year-old Elgin man accused of breaking his infant stepdaughter's legs testified Thursday that he gently pulled the baby toward him while she was lying on a bed last year.
But Kane County prosecutors say Ricardo Robledo-Espino used enough force in an attempt to quiet the crying child on April 3, 2010, that he directly caused the injuries.
Espino, of the 300 block of McClure Avenue, faces felony charges of aggravated battery to a child and, if convicted, faces six to 30 years in prison; probation is not an option. His bench trial before Judge Patrcia Golden started this week.
Espino was arrested after the child was found to have "bucket handle fractures" below her kneecaps.
That's the term given to broken bones around the knees that can result when an infant is shaken violently.
On the witness stand, Espino was questioned about an April 17, 2010, interview he had with Elgin police. The interview followed several doctor visits beginning on April 8 at Sherman Hospital, Loyola University Medical Center and eventually Children's Memorial Hospital after the baby's left leg was swollen and later discovered to be broken.
Espino said the baby was crying that day while lying on the couple's king-size bed.
"I pulled her gently toward me," said Espino, who demonstrated with a doll in court. "I didn't do anything forceful."
But Assistant State's Attorney Deb Bree questioned why Espino didn't tell anyone that information while at the hospital or beforehand. She added that Espino told police in a taped interview that after the baby let out a high pitched cry on April 3 and Espino thought he might have hurt the child.
"I wasn't completely aware that I hurt her because I would never intentionally hurt my baby, but I did say that," Espino testified.
Police said Espino initially told them he may have pushed down on the baby's legs while getting out of bed. Espino's defense attorneys have said he was merely offering theories on what could have happened to the infant in an attempt to help.
On Wednesday, Dr. Emalee Flaherty, a certified child abuse pediatrician at Children's Memorial, testified that the infant's injuries could not have been caused by Espino getting out of bed. She said she believed Espino minimized how much force he used when pulling on the child's legs.
"These injuries were caused by significant force," she said.
Jennifer Lim-Dunham, a radiologist at Loyola, testified Monday that the multiple fractures were suggestive of child abuse.
Both experts said the injuries were not caused by childbirth, nor were they self inflicted.
Closing arguments are scheduled for July 25 at which time Judge Golden could render her verdict or take the case under advisement and announce her decision at a later date.