By Antoinnette Borbon
It was exactly two years ago that authorities discovered the 19-day-old infant, Baby Justice, lying next to a tree along the embankment of a Knights Landing slough. The baby was found wearing only a wet diaper and a onesie. Baby Justice’s death, according to District Attorney Jeff Reisig, was “environmental exposure due to neglect.”
Samantha Green and the father, Frank T. Rees, were under the influence of methamphetamine the day Baby Justice died. According to Ms. Green, Frank had injected her with the drug, causing her to become delusional, fearful for herself and for Baby Justice’s life. Green told investigators that she held the baby in her arms as she crossed the slough, fleeing from another man who had tried to sexually abuse her. The weather grew colder as nighttime settled. Green says she fell asleep after setting her baby down. When she awoke she noticed the baby was cold and unresponsive and began looking for help.
Green was convicted of second degree murder and sentenced to 15 years to life in state prison.
A motion by Public Defender Tracie Olson for a new trial was denied by Judge Dave Rosenberg.
During a press conference Wednesday morning, DA Reisig discussed the arrest and charges against Frank Rees. Rees has been formally charged with involuntary manslaughter, child endangerment and administering a controlled substance, felony charges.
“Based on the new charges, Judge David Rosenberg issued an arrest warrant to Frank Rees yesterday morning at approximately ten am,” Jeff Reisig said. He was arrested and booked in the jail with bail set by the judge at $500,000 “based on facts provided to him in a sealed declaration by investigators.”
Mr. Reisig explained that, two years ago, Justice Rees was found dead in a slough in Yolo County. He was only 19 days old at the time of his death. He died of environmental exposure due to neglect.
Samantha Green, the baby’s mother, was arrested and ultimately charged with murder. She was convicted in September of 2016.
“During that public trial, the following significant facts were elicited from testimony,” he explained. “When Justice Rees was born he had methamphetamine in his system due to Samantha Green’s ingestion of methamphetamine during pregnancy including the day before he was born.”
She had been living with Frank Rees, the baby’s biological father, prior to the baby’s birth.
As the result of the meth in the baby’s system, “members of the Yolo County Child welfare system met with Samantha Green and Frank Rees to evaluate whether it was safe for the baby to return home with the parents. Ultimately, Baby Justice was released to Samantha Green and Frank Rees, as Child Welfare officials got them to agree not to use methamphetamine and to seek drug treatment among other things.”
Samantha Green and Frank Rees continued to ingest methamphetamine, with evidence at trial establishing that Frank Rees was directly administering the drug to Ms. Green “despite the circumstances of Baby Justice at his birth.”
“Frank Rees was not originally charged with Samantha Green in the case involving the death of baby Justice for legal reasons which I do not plan to discuss today,” Mr. Reisig told reporters.
However, it was a recent arrest that played a factor in the decision to charge him this week, stated the district attorney.
Two weeks ago, Mr. Rees was arrested by sheriff’s deputies at his home in Woodland, and they found him with meth and ammunition. “During that arrest, he was with a 26-year-old female who was six months pregnant and living with Mr. Rees,” he explained. She was also found in possession of the drug.
An involuntary manslaughter charge is all the evidence permits, asserted the district attorney, who explained to reporters he could only answer questions that were already public knowledge.
Chief Deputy District Attorneys Rob Gorman and Ryan Couzens will be prosecuting Rees.
Judge Dave Rosenberg issued the arrest warrant after an ongoing investigation into Rees’ connection to Baby Justice’s death.
The news of Frank Rees’ arrest was welcomed by Green’s father, who spoke briefly to reporters outside the district attorney’s office.
Randy Green expressed his disappointment with CPS workers for allowing the infant to go home with the couple after Green tested positive for drugs upon the infant’s birth. “He would be alive today,” said Mr. Green, “and my daughter wouldn’t be doing 15 years in prison.”
Yolo County Deputy Sheriffs made the arrest of Rees early Tuesday morning and he is scheduled for a Thursday arraignment on the charges at 1:30 p.m. in Department 1.