By Jackie Snyder and Mahanaz Ebadi
On January 20, 2015, the preliminary hearing for Darnell Dorsey began almost exactly a year after Darnell Dorsey, a 21-year-old Sacramento man, was arrested for felony child endangerment.
On January 22, 2014, at 11:47 PM, in the parking lot of Dutch Bros. Coffee (located at the corner of Richards Boulevard and Olive Drive in Davis) a mother presented her one-year-old child to an AMR ambulance crew for treatment. The baby was unresponsive and appeared seriously injured. He was transported to the UCD Medical Center for emergency care.
On January 25, 2014, at approximately 1:30 PM, the child victim succumbed to his injuries and passed away at the UC Davis Medical Center in Sacramento.
The baby’s grandmother told the Vanguard that the three-year-old sibling had said, ”Daddy hit him in the head and he got sick.” The CAT scan revealed injuries conducive to what is known as “shaken baby syndrome.”
The preliminary hearing began on Tuesday afternoon. Prior to the hearing, a motion to exclude testifying witnesses was granted, and all witnesses were asked to leave the courtroom. The prosecution then called their first witness, Officer Pheng Ly, a 13-year veteran of the Davis Police Department.
Officer Ly was dispatched to the Davis Dutch Bros. Coffee kiosk on January 22, 2014, regarding an unresponsive child. Officer Ly testified that he arrived on the scene at approximately 11:49 PM. When asked about the Dutch Bros.’ scene, Officer Ly recalled an ambulance containing the victim and his mother, preparing to leave the scene. A Hyundai, carrying other members of the victim’s family, was also at the scene.
Officer Ly testified that the paramedics claimed they had performed CPR on the victim because he was not breathing and his pulse was faint. The ambulance transported the victim to Sutter Davis Hospital. Ly testified that, once at the hospital, the only evidence collected by him was a size 3T Scooby-Doo pajama top, which was wet and been cut for reasons unknown.
The next witness called to testify was Officer Michael Yu, a peace officer employed with the city of Davis since 2007. Officer Yu testified that he was dispatched to Sutter Davis to investigate an unresponsive infant child.While at the hospital, Officer Yu had a conversation with the paramedics about Dorsey’s demeanor. Darnell Dorsey was the boyfriend of the child’s mother. They claimed that Dorsey, who was at the ER, became frustrated and began screaming about checking the victim’s mouth for any obstructions.
Officer Yu also testified that he questioned Dominique Miller, aunt of Veronica Ricks, (Veronica Ricks is the victim’s mother) about the events of January 22, 2014. Dominique stated that Brittney Miller (her sister) had gone with her to pick up Ricks that evening so they could work out. Approximately 40 minutes later, when the three women returned to Ricks’ residence, they were confronted by a panicked Dorsey claiming Ricks’ child (from another man), Cameron, was not breathing. The women immediately took the child to the hospital and on the way to the hospital came across the ambulance at the Dutch Bros. location. When asked if any of the women stated that they suspected Dorsey of violence toward the child, Yu stated they did not.
Officer Yu also testified he interviewed Veronica Ricks’ father, Paul Contini. Contini first claimed that he did not suspect Dorsey of any violence towards the child, but he “kept an eye on” him when he was alone with the children. Officer Yu brought to Contini’s attention a cast and black eye on Dorsey’s biological child, Julian (Dorsey was alone watching Julian and Cameron the night the incident took place). Paul Contini then began to recall other injuries that appeared on the children after they had been left in Dorsey’s care.
Fourteen-year Davis Police Officer Ilya Bezuglov was questioned next. He had interviewed Dominique Miller, the aunt of the victim’s mother. Officer Bezuglov testified that Dominique informed him that Ricks had broken up with Cameron’s father about 8 months prior and Dorsey moved in within a month. Dominique stated that on January 22, 2014, Ricks had fed the kids before leaving for the gym. The women returned to the trailer when Ricks forgot the gym key, and the kids were still eating. When they returned 40 minutes later the door was ajar, but the women stayed in the car to talk. They did not know anything was wrong until Dorsey came out saying something was wrong with Cameron. Ricks ran into the trailer and returned with a lifeless Cameron. Dominique described Cameron as unconscious with blood on his face. She testified that Dorsey was upset when he realized he was on speakerphone with Ricks while Dominique was driving.
Officer Joshua Helton was the last witness called to testify. An officer with the Davis Police department since 2006, he was well prepared. Officer Helton answered questions calmly, giving detailed information about the investigative process and what occurred during the execution of the search warrant. At times, Officer Helton referred back to his reports to confirm the facts of the case. He stated that he entered the residence looking for any “stains on the floor, bodily fluids, or damages to the environment.” Officer Helton explained that he was instructed to search for any evidence that would indicate that great bodily harm had occurred at the location. He described the trailer as messy with unidentified debris, toys and food particles on the floor. Helton concluded with describing the obvious marijuana growing in the utility room.
Upon Officer Helton’s’ dismissal, the court discussed the obvious need for more time than the afternoon allotted for the remainder of the preliminary hearing. Due to the defense attorney’s vacation “out of the country” (Hawaii) the only option available was a longer following day. After several attempts to alter the following morning’s court calendars, the court decided to start a half hour earlier on January 21.