Newborn's father testifies in mother's murder trial
"Hopefully, one day you can forgive me."
That was the text message Misael Chavez says he received from his then-girlfriend Jessica Cruz on Nov. 4, 2011, a few hours after prosecutors say she strangled their newborn son, wrapped him in a plastic bag and left him in a trash can after giving birth in the restroom of a Salvation Army store in Streamwood.
Cruz, then 19, was charged with first-degree murder. Prosecutors say the Hanover Park woman killed her baby because she feared her mother's reaction to the unwanted pregnancy.
Defense attorneys, who will begin presenting their case next week, claim Cruz never intended to kill the 6-pound, 11-ounce boy, who they say did not survive the birth.
Chavez, 20, testified Thursday he and Cruz began dating in 2010 while students at Streamwood High School. When Cruz told him she was pregnant in September 2011, he offered to support her emotionally and financially, he said.
"I told her if the baby was mine I'd be willing to help. I'd take full responsibility," he said.
"What was her response?" asked Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Karen Crothers.
"She started mentioning that she couldn't have the baby," Chavez said. "I told her she can give the baby up to me and I'd take full responsibility."
During cross examination, Cook County Assistant Public Defender Daniel Naranjo pressed Chavez for more detail.
"She never told you she didn't want the baby, she told you she couldn't have the baby," Naranjo said. To which Chavez responded, "yes."
Earlier, jurors viewed autopsy photographs of Baby Cruz -- likely the only photographs that exist of the brown-eyed, black-haired newborn -- that brought tears to the eyes of several jurors and onlookers.
Cook County assistant medical examiner Dr. Ponni Arunkumar testified the baby had a ligature impression around his neck, the result, said prosecutors, of Cruz tightly tying the plastic bag around his throat. Arunkumar said the pressure caused a bruise and blocked blood flow to the baby's brain, which Arunkumar said killed him in two to six minutes.
The baby also had bruising beneath his scalp, resulting from "a blunt force injury," she said.
Tests revealed the baby's organs were normal, Arunkumar said. X-rays and other tests indicated air in his lungs. evidence of a live birth, said Arunkumar, who ruled the death a homicide.
Under cross examination, Arunkumar acknowledged that although the baby took a breath strong enough to inflate his lungs, she had no way of knowing whether it was a strong breath or a feeble breath. She also acknowledged the umbilical cord might have wrapped around his neck, causing the bruising. But her autopsy report did not indicate that was the case.
"The umbilical cord wouldn't have untied itself, would it?" asked Crothers on redirect, to which Arunkumar responded "no." Testimony continues Monday.