New details released in death of Fresno 1-year-old

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- New details were released on Thursday in the death of a 14-month-old toddler who was killed nearly three years ago.

Jose Luis Espinoza died at the hands of a man who investigators say was his babysitter's boyfriend.

The victim's older sister was home at the time of the homicide and gave investigators their first glimpse into what happened that December day. She said her brother was struck by Kenny with a frozen water bottle.

An autopsy report showed Jose Luis Espinoza died of blunt force trauma to the head and stomach. Investigators say a firsthand account from the toddler's 7-year-old sister gave them their first specific information.

"She saw Kenny, she referred to Kenny putting a frozen water bottle on the victim's stomach and then she said she saw Kenny hit the victim in the head with the water bottle," said Fresno Police Detective Robert Holguin.

During an interview, the babysitter told investigators her boyfriend Kenneth Johnson came over around 1 in the afternoon and stayed about an hour. She said she was spraying cockroaches in the kitchen when the victim's sister came in to tell her that her Jose wasn't breathing.

"She said she ran to the bedroom and found the confidential victim laying on a white toddler mattress. It appeared that he was staring at the ceiling. She said she heard him take a breath when she picked him up."

By the time the 14-month-old was taken to Saint Agnes Medical Center it was too late. A medical exam showed the boy had countless severe injuries. Some were obvious, others internal.

"A cluster of bruises on the chest, a cluster of bruises on the face below the chin (butt to) a bruised small intestine."

Initially Johnson was arrested for the toddler's death, but the charges were dropped. He spoke briefly when he was set free.

"I just apologize for the situation. I just don't know right now," he said.

Two years later, when detectives collected enough forensic evidence for the District Attorney to file charges, Johnson was re-arrested. He's now answering to charges of murder.

On Thursday afternoon, a judge decided there was enough evidence to hold him on the charge. If convicted, he could face 25 years to life in prison.
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