Authorities Baffled Over Toddler Killing
Investigators Unsure Why Father With No Criminal Record Or Mental Illness Would Beat “Demons” From 2-Year-Old Son
TURLOCK, Calif., June 18, 2008
(AP) Investigators struggled Tuesday to explain why a 27-year-old man with no criminal record and no apparent signs of mental illness savagely beat his toddler son to death on a dark country road.
Sergio Casian Aguiar, who worked at a supermarket in Turlock, was fatally shot by police Saturday night after he refused to stop attacking his 2-year-old son, according to the Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department.
Aguiar’s wife, Frances Liliana Casian, a kindergarten teacher, told detectives that she didn’t know why Aguiar would brutally beat their child and said he didn’t have any mental illness that she knew about, according to sheriff’s spokesman, Royjindar Singh. Casian and Aguiar had been separated.
Results from toxicology tests to determine if Aguiar was drunk or on drugs are expected in about four weeks.
Detectives have been interviewing friends, neighbors and family members, but they still haven’t found an explanation for the grisly killing, Singh said Tuesday.
“As of now, there’s still no reason why he did this,” Singh said. “Nobody said his behavior was strange at all. He was normal as far as they knew him.”
Aguiar had immigrated from Mexico, and family members will be traveling from abroad to make funeral arrangements and meet with Stanislaus County investigators, Singh said.
The boy was staying with his father over the weekend because his mother was out of town. Aguiar didn’t tell his roommate where he and his son were going when he left their house Saturday night, Singh said.
“We may never know why the suspect beat that child to death,” Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson told The Modesto Bee. “We hope to find out, but it’s going to take a lot more work.”
Witnesses said they saw Aguiar stomping, kicking and punching the toddler next to his pickup truck, which was parked on a remote, unlit road in rural Stanislaus County around 10 p.m. Saturday.
Deborah McKain, 51, who lives in nearby Crows Landing, and her boyfriend, Dan Robinson, were driving on West Bradbury Road, just outside the San Joaquin Valley town of Turlock, when they spotted Aguiar on the roadside.
She told the San Francisco Chronicle that at first she thought he was “kicking garbage or something,” but soon realized he was attacking a child. She said the child looked like a “rag doll,” unconscious with his clothes falling off. She estimated that she saw him kick or stomp the boy at least 100 times.
Robinson, a volunteer fire chief in Crows Landing, and at least one other man tried to pull Aguiar away from the boy, but the suspect kept attacking the toddler.
Robinson told reporters that “there was a total hollowness in his eyes” and that Aguiar spoke calmly when he said he was beating the “demons” out of the boy. At one point Aguiar asked Robinson for a knife.
Minutes after at least three 911 calls were placed – at 10:19 p.m. – officers in a sheriff’s helicopter landed in a nearby cow pasture. Modesto Police Officer Jerry Ramar jumped out, ran across a field to an electrified fence next to the road and ordered Aguiar to stop.
“Put your hands up. Step away from the baby,” Ramar said, according to Singh.
When Aguiar stuck out his middle finger and kept kicking the boy, Ramar fired his gun, killing the suspect with a shot in the forehead.
Two deputies tried unsuccessfully to perform CPR on the boy before he was rushed to Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock, where he was pronounced dead.
Ramar, who has been a law enforcement officer for more than six years, has been placed on paid administrative leave, a routine response for officer-involved shootings.
Because the boy was beaten beyond recognition, investigators plan to use DNA tests to confirm that the toddler was Aguiar’s son. They also plan to test blood that was found inside the cab of Aguiar’s Toyota pickup, said Christianson.
“This event didn’t start at Bradbury Road. The blood and other evidence leads us to believe the suspect may have ended up there, but the crime really started someplace else,” Christianson told the Bee. “That child probably suffered fatal injuries before the motorists arrived on the scene.”
Aguiar worked at a 24-hour FoodMaxx in Turlock, where he was described as a good employee, according to a company spokesman.
Ronda Donner, manager of the Mulberry Mobile Park in Turlock, where the family lived for a few years before they moved last year, said she was “blown away” by the news.
“Nice, no trouble. Their rent was always paid on time,” Donner told the Chronicle. “I’m still kind of shocked. He didn’t seem like that kind of person.”
Authorities said they had previously misspelled the perpetrator’s name as Aguilar.
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I’m thinking he was either on drugs or punishing the kid’s mom…or possibly both. There was a reason that he and the baby’s mother weren’t together anymore…
Killer dad said he had to ‘get the demons’ out
Demian Bulwa, Chronicle Staff Writer
(06-17) 04:00 PDT Turlock, Stanislaus County — A 27-year-old grocery store worker who police say punched and kicked his 2-year-old son to death on a country road calmly told motorists who stopped at the scene that he had to “get the demons” out of the boy, two witnesses said Monday.
Sergio Casian Aguiar of Turlock told people who urged him to stop late Saturday that the boy was “trash,” the witnesses said. He asked for a knife at one point and, at another, said, “Look how they make toys now.”
And when a Modesto police officer jumped off a helicopter and ordered Aguiar to stop at gunpoint, he raised his middle finger and continued his attack.
Officer Jerry Ramar, standing in a cow pasture behind an electric fence, shot Aguiar once in the forehead, the witnesses and police said. Aguiar died at the scene.
“Good shot, thank God,” said Deborah McKain, a 51-year-old resident of nearby Crows Landing who pulled up to the beating scene on a cracked two-lane road while on her way home from dinner in Turlock, 10 miles to the northeast. “That guy needed to die.”
The reason a father with no criminal record would commit such a brutal killing was still a mystery on Monday. Authorities do not know whether Aguiar was drunk or on drugs, and toxicology reports on him and his son will not be available for three to four weeks, said sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Royjindar Singh.
The boy was beaten so savagely that DNA tests will be needed to confirm his identity, Singh said. His name has not been released.
The crime shocked this agricultural community and stunned those who knew Aguiar and his wife, Frances, who had recently separated from her husband. She was in Southern California when her son was killed.
Police said Aguiar had never been arrested. He worked at the 24-hour FoodMaxx in Turlock, where a company spokesman described him as a good employee whose co-workers were traumatized by what happened.
At the Mulberry Mobile Park, where Aguiar, his wife and his son lived in a trailer for a few years before moving last year, manager Ronda Donner said she was “blown away.”
“Nice, no trouble. Their rent was always paid on time,” Donner said while pruning trees on the property, where mobile homes encircle a parched island of grass. “I’m still kind of shocked. He didn’t seem like that kind of person.”
His wife lives in a modest apartment in Turlock. A bicycle, tricycle and a toy car sat outside Monday. No one was home.
McKain, of Crows Landing, said she drove past Sergio Aguiar’s pickup Saturday night on West Bradbury Road and, at first, thought he was “kicking garbage or something.”
But she said her boyfriend, Dan Robinson, told her to back up and put her headlights on Aguiar.
“Sure enough, he was kicking a baby around,” McKain said.
She said the child was unconscious, his clothes falling off, and looked liked a “rag doll.” Robinson, a volunteer fire chief in Crows Landing, showed Aguiar his badge and ordered him to stop, but Aguiar calmly said something like, “It’s just trash,” McKain said.
Aguiar also said, “Look how they make toys now,” McKain said, and at one point asked Robinson for a knife.
When Robinson went into the pickup to turn on the hazard lights, Aguiar stopped kicking the boy, helped him find the flashers, then went back to his attack, McKain said. She said there was blood in the truck’s cab.
McKain said her son, her son’s wife and her son’s friend were also there, as were a woman and a man who pulled up in separate cars. She estimated that she saw Aguiar kick or stomp his son at least 100 times, but she said no one tried to stop him because he appeared to be dangerous. One fear was that “maybe he had something in his pocket,” she said.
Also, McKain said, it was clear that “the baby was gone.”
Another witness, 23-year-old Lisa Mota, said Aguiar “wasn’t acting like a crazy person, running around or screaming. He said, ‘I’ve just got to get the demons out of him.’ He was very calm.’ “
Mota said she went to a counselor Monday to talk about what she saw but wasn’t ready to talk about it publicly.
“Even having witnessed it, I still can’t believe it happened,” she said. “I don’t think it’s ever going to leave my mind. For someone like me who is about to start a family, it’s a fear that there’s people out there like that – that even have the thought to kill a child.”
The roadway was still stained with blood Monday, and one neighbor had attached a teddy bear to a nearby stop sign.
Singh said authorities received several 911 calls about the beating just after 10 p.m. Saturday, and that the first officers to arrive were aboard a Sheriff’s Department helicopter that had been patrolling over Turlock. The pilot, a sheriff’s deputy, and Ramar, the Modesto police officer, landed in a cow pasture just off the roadway about 10:19 p.m., Singh said.
Ramar jumped from the helicopter before it touched down, ran about 20 yards toward Aguiar and, while standing behind the pasture’s fence, ordered him to stop beating the boy, Singh said.
McKain said Aguiar responded, “I’m not going to prison,” and when he raised his middle finger, Ramar fired.
E-mail Demian Bulwa at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared on page A – 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle