UKIAH — Emerald Herriot was a happy, thriving baby until she was placed into foster care with a man now charged with causing her death, according to testimony in the trial of Wilson Lee Tubbs, III.
Tubbs, 39, of Fort Bragg, is charged with child abuse resulting in death in connection with the death of the 5-month-old girl in December 2012. He faces up to 25 years-to-life in prison if convicted.
On Tuesday, the second day of trial in Mendocino County Superior Court, Fort Bragg pediatrician Vicki Soloniuk testified that, other than a cleft palate, the child had what appeared to be fairly minor health problems until December 2. That's the day Tubbs, whose wife is related to the baby's father, brought her to the Mendocino Coast Hospital's emergency room, unconscious and not breathing.
The baby was flown to Children's Hospital in Oakland but soon after was declared brain dead. She was taken off life support a few days later and died, according to court testimony.
A CT scan of the child's head showed it was fractured in two places and there was bleeding in her brain, Soloniuk testified. She also suffered numerous bruises.
Tubbs initially told police the child had fallen off a 21-inch-tall bench on Dec. 1 but that she initially seemed fine. He said he didn't notice until the next day that something was wrong and took her to the hospital emergency room, police said.
Tubbs later told investigators that he had shaken and slapped the baby because she would not stop crying following the fall, police said.
Soloniuk testified Tuesday that the injuries the child suffered were not consistent with a fall.
Signs that the child's health had declined first appeared in reports about two weeks before she died, according to court testimony.
A child development evaluation on Oct. 23 — a week before she was placed in foster care with Tubbs and his wife, Marte — indicated the child was healthy and happy, cooing and engaged, according to court testimony.
In the next evaluation, conducted Nov. 13, she was like a different child altogether, evaluators reported. She was whining, crying and appeared to have regressed, according to testimony.
Marte Tubbs reportedly was concerned that the child might have problems because her biological mother had mental health and substance abuse issues, according to testimony.
The child was taken from her biological mother shortly after birth because a concerned roommate reported that, during an argument, the mother had allowed the baby's head to swing unsupported, according to police.
The child also began to have health problems in November, including scratched corneas and vomiting but they apparently were not initially considered significant problems, according to court testimony.
The prosecution portion of the trial continues Wednesday.
You can reach Staff Writer Glenda Anderson at 462-6473 or firstname.lastname@example.org