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Tuesday, December 18 , 2018, 3:15 am | Fair 48º


Attorney for Orcutt Man Charged with Toddler’s Death Presses for Plea Deal

Steven Andrade noted that mom of girl conducted internet research about child bruises, skull fractures week before taking daughter to hospital

Sean Michael Kothe Click to view larger
The attorney for Sean Michael Kothe, 27, seen above during his preliminary hearing last year, is pressing for a plea deal for his client. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk file photo)

The attorney for the Orcutt man charged with killing his girlfriend’s toddler said the woman had conducted suspicious internet searches about child skull fractures in the days before taking the young girl to the hospital two years ago.

Sean Michael Kothe, 27, is awaiting trial in Santa Barbara County Superior Court for the case stemming from June 26, 2016, when his girlfriend, Jackeline Molina-Rodriguez of Oceano, showed up at Marian Regional Medical Center with her 18-month-old daughter, Delilah Cassio-Molina.

The girl died two days later at a Madera children’s hospital.

Kothe has been charged with felony murder and assault on a child causing death.

During the preliminary hearing, Dr. Manuel Montez testified the toddler died due to a non-accidental traumatic brain injury, and had a skull fracture likened to a shattered egg shell.

By the time the toddler arrived at the hospital, Montez said, she was “essentially dead." 

Kothe had mostly recently cared for the girl in the hours before the mother took her to the hospital. While the girl was at the hospital, Kothe shot up heroin, a detective testified. 

The mother was not charged in the case.

Kothe has denied injuring the toddler while she was in his care, defense attorney Steven Andrade said.

In a readiness-and-settlement conference statement filed with he court this week, the defense attorney said experts disagree on when the trauma occurred that led to the toddler’s death. 

He cited cell phone and internet research records for the girl’s mother revealing searches such as “toddler with dark bruise behind ear,” “bruise behind ear child” and more on June 19 and June 22, 2016.

Other searches include symptoms of leukemia in children, according to the mother, who told detectives she had researched online after noticing a big bruise behind her daughter's ear.

“I was just thinking like that she’s sick and something was wrong,” the mother said, adding the research said to monitor the child.

The woman also told detectives about the girl falling several times, including in the bath tub, from the counter and against a futon, during which the head trauma could have occurred, Andrade said in the court document.

“The fact that Jacqueline [sic] Molina was researching bruises behind the ear and skull fractures on June 19 and June 22 will support defense experts’ opinions that symptoms from subdural hematoma, depending on many factors, can take days, weeks or even longer to develop,” Andrade wrote in the court document.

“Further, the trauma which led to Delilah’s death certainly could have resulted from traumas which Jacqueline [sic] Molina admits occurred when Delilah was in her care,” he added.

“Given the serious charges pending against Mr. Kothe and significant proof issues related to the most serious charges, settlement discussion are appropriate,” he wrote.

Detectives testified during the preliminary hearing that Kothe’s friends said the defendant picked up the girl by her shirt collar and would swing her around to the point of dizziness before pushing her.

A friend also told authorities the defendant reportedly referred to the 19-month-old as “little bitch" and the girl acted afraid of Kothe.

The Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to a request for comment.

Kothe made a brief appearance in court before Judge Gustavo Lavayen on Wednesday morning, when the readiness-and-settlement conference was continued to Oct. 9.

The trial in this case tentatively has been scheduled to start Nov. 5.

Kothe remains in custody of Santa Barbara County Jail, with bail set at more than $2 million.

He has two other cases pending, including possessing a controlled substance behind bars and dissuading a witness. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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