A La Quinta woman was convicted today of murder and assault charges stemming from the 2003 death of her 2-year-old stepson.
Patricia Brown, 51, collapsed at the Indio courthouse when she heard the verdict — guilty of second-degree murder and assault on a child causing death — and was transported to a hospital by paramedics.
Her condition was unclear as of late today.
Jurors deliberated for less than a day before reaching their decision following a month-long trial. Sentencing is set for Sept. 22.
Brown’s family members, who packed the courtroom, wept and in some cases screamed and shouted their frustration over the verdict both inside the courthouse and outside in the parking lot.
Prosecutors presented evidence of repeated child abuse that culminated with the Jan. 16, 2003 death of Deetrick Brown, whose father was a co defendant in the case until midway through the trial.
Brown and her husband, Derrick, were first charged with murder in 2003, but a judge who presided over a preliminary hearing that October ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed to trial.
A decade later, the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office and the sheriff’s department re-examined the case and submitted new evidence that resulted in the refiling of charges against the Browns.
They were re-arrested on Jan. 16, 2013 — 10 years to the day of the boy’s death.
The trial saw a litany of pediatricians, neurologists and other medical specialists appearing as expert witnesses, as the prosecution sought to show that the boy’s death was caused by consistent physical abuse.
Witnesses from Child Protection Services were also called to the stand to determine if abuse occurred while Deetrick was in the care of the Browns, his biological mother or his foster mother.
Derrick Brown went from being a co-defendant to a bystander midway through the trial, when a judge ruled on a defense motion arguing there was a lack of evidence to convict him.
Deetrick was in the custody of his biological mother until June 2001, when she was arrested on suspicion of child neglect. The boy was then moved to a foster home, until the Browns took custody in April 2002, reconciling after a 2-year separation during which Deetrick was born.
Deputy District Attorney Michelle Paradise said in her closing argument Wednesday that the tot showed no signs of abuse until he lived with the Browns.
His stepmother resented the child, the prosecutor said.
“Patricia Brown was forced to raise him, a child she didn’t want, a child she didn’t love, a child from another woman,” she said.
Paradise said no injuries were noted by physicians while the child was in foster care, nor did he suffer any abuse at the hands of his biological mother.
Though Deetrick and his siblings were taken from his biological mother’s home, it was because there was evidence she was abusing Deetrick’s brother, and not Deetrick, the prosecutor said.
The Browns were arrested in June 2003 when authorities searched their home in the 51000 block of Avenida Velasco.
The toddler died at Loma Linda Children’s Hospital about two months shy of his 3rd birthday. The day before his death, he suffered a seizure that was caused by “acute and chronic abusive head trauma,” according to a declaration prepared in support of an arrest warrant.
The seizure was one of several that the toddler suffered between November 2002 and January 2003, despite not having a pre-existing medical condition, according to the declaration.
Paradise said CAT scans showed bleeding in the toddler’s brain that could only be caused by trauma, and his seizures were the result of the impact of blows to his head.
The prosecutor said other signs of abuse included a hand injury the boy sustained, as well as other scabbing and scratch marks on his body.
“Even though we can’t save Deetrick — that ship has sailed — we can still find justice,” Paradise said. “Even delayed justice is justice.”
Defense attorney Brenda Miller countered that Deetrick suffered from an “undiagnosed brain injury” and should have been prescribed anti-seizure medication, but doctors never caught on to his condition.
Miller said medical professionals also failed to diagnose diabetes and autism in the boy.
“What is really difficult is that whenever we are in a medical crisis, we look to experts for answers. The Browns were not given any answers,” Miller said.
Miller argued there was no evidence linking Deetrick’s ailments to abuse, as there were no witnesses within the home who ever saw Brown abusing the child.
“We’re not going to let the prosecutor get away with murder by not
proving this case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Miller said.