Fresno foster mom faces trial in 1-month-old’s death


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Fresno foster mom faces trial in 1-month-old’s death

Hours of sometimes graphic testimony were enough to convince a judge Thursday that Fresno resident Jovannee Reynolds should stand trial for killing her foster daughter.

Reynolds, 25, is accused of shaking 1-month-old Mikayla Tabin to death in September 2010.

"It wouldn't happen from a fall. It wouldn't happen from a hit. It would have to happen from severe forcible injury," said Philip Hyden, pediatrician and medical director at Children's Hospital Central California.

Fresno County Superior Court Judge Gregory Fain ordered Reynolds to return to court Sept. 12 for a pre-trial briefing. She faces 25 years to life in prison on charges of murder and assault. She is also charged with abusing a 3-year-old boy in her care.

She has pleaded not guilty and is free on bail.

Reynolds' attorney Martin Teleisnik suggested Thursday that Mikayla's fatal brain injury could be the result of freak trauma that occurred during her birth or even an assault by her foster brother. But he said the record is too scant to pinpoint a cause.

The only thing that was clear during the nearly five-hour hearing was the tragedy of Mikayla's brief life.

Her biological mother tested positive for methamphetamine use when Mikayla was born, according to court testimony. Her mother abandoned her at a local drug-care facility.

Five days after birth, county social workers placed Mikayla with Reynolds and her husband, who had been licensed for foster care only a month earlier.

After two weeks in the couple's apartment, Reynolds observed Mikayla having trouble breathing and took her to the hospital, where she died.

Reynolds' husband is not charged with a crime.

Reynolds showed little emotion in court Thursday. She sat studiously, often taking notes during testimony and passing them on to her attorney.

Several of her family members were there to support her.

Prosecutor Jeff Dupras pursued a line of questioning that painted her as a woman with little experience with children and no patience with them.

Police investigator Andre Benson testified that Reynolds' apartment manager told him "Jovannee was constantly complaining about other kids playing in the complex and making too much noise."

Other neighbors heard regular and abnormal crying from Reynolds' apartment, Benson said.

Benson also said that Reynolds passed off bruises observed on her foster son as the boy pinching himself or throwing himself against the wall.

Later testimony suggested that the boy's new foster parent never observed such self-mutilating behavior.

County social workers were aware that Reynolds was having problems with her foster son before Mikayla's death, according to county documents.

The boy, though, was not removed from the home until after Mikayla died.