Autopsy rules infant's death a homicide; police say father squeezed baby until ribs fractured

INDIANAPOLIS -- Marion County prosecutors filed enhanced charges against an Indianapolis man Friday after an autopsy ruled his infant son’s death a homicide.

Orlando Mota, 23, was originally charged in September 2017 with two counts of battery resulting in serious bodily injury in connection with the death of his 1-month-old son Damian Mota.

Damian was declared dead on Aug. 29, 2017, after medics found him unresponsive in an apartment in the 7100 block of Shrewsbury Lane.

Scans of the infant’s body found nearly all of Damian’s ribs were either fractured or were healing from old fractures. In all, doctors reported finding three acute rib fractures and 12 healing rib fractures, with a suspicion of healing fractures in three other ribs.

In an interview with police, Mota said he had been exhausted and frustrated at the children because he hadn’t been able to rest for weeks. Mota said he had a “practice of tiring [Damian] out” which involved turning the infant on his stomach with his arms beside his body, forcing him to have to lift his head up by only using his neck muscles.

Mota told police he had done this on the day medics were called until Damian was exhausted. He said he then went into the front room and went to sleep. Mota returned to check on the infant later and found him lying on his stomach, not breathing and with his face in a pillow.

Police asked Mota to show them how he would hold Damian when the child was crying and would not stop. They gave him an infant-sized doll to demonstrate on.

According to a probable cause affidavit, Mota held the doll on his chest in between both arms and “began squeezing the doll until the doll cracked.”

Police said Mota confessed to squeezing Damian on multiple occasions hard enough to fracture the child’s bones because he would not stop crying. He said he had done it “maybe three or four times.” On at least one occasion, Mota said, Damian’s mother, April Pena, had been in the room.

Pena was also charged with two counts of neglect of a dependent resulting in bodily injury after telling police she had continued to leave Damian and her 2-year-old son in Mota’s care despite knowing about the alleged physical abuse he was responsible for.

This week, the Marion County Coroner’s Office said an autopsy determined Damian had died of traumatic asphyxiation, and ruled the infant’s death a homicide.

As a result of the autopsy results, prosecutors filed a level 1 felony charge of neglect of a dependent resulting in death against Mota on Friday. Court records show no new charges for Pena as a result of the autopsy.

Mota’s next court appearance was scheduled for a pretrial conference on April 3 at 9 a.m.

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