Uncle convicted in child's beating death
By Larry Welborn
Orange County Register, January 25, 2011

SANTA ANA – A Cypress man who was given custody of his 2-year-old niece in 2005 when his sister was imprisoned is headed to prison himself after a jury convicted him Tuesday of second-degree murder for beating the child to death. The seven-woman, five-man jury also found Michael David Balderas guilty of assault on a child likely to produce great bodily injury resulting in the death of little Jo Jade on March 30, 2006.

Michael Balderas, left, was convicted of second-degree murder in the beating death of his niece, Jo Jade, right.

Balderas, now 33, faces a term of 25 years to life in prison at his sentencing by Superior Court Judge William R. Froeberg on Feb. 22.

Deputy District Attorney Michael Murray contended during the trial that Balderas beat his niece “over and over and over again” in between sessions on his home computer to “teach her a lesson” because she was dirtying her diapers.

The key evidence in the case was an 80-minute videotape of a police interview of Balderas shortly after the child died.

In it, Balderas claimed he believed Jo Jade was intentionally defying him by continuing to mess her diapers even though he had warned her that such behavior was unacceptable and would result in “pow pow” – or more beatings.

He admitted hitting Jo Jade four or five times with his fingers and a belt on March 30, 2006, because she continued to “poop” her panties before he noticed late in the afternoon that she was unconscious after he ordered her to take a nap.

Balderas told detectives that he called his girlfriend to come home immediately and that he tried to resuscitate the little girl as they drove to La Palma Hospital.

But doctors were unable to resuscitate Jo Jade, who was pronounced dead as a result of internal bleeding caused by blunt-force trauma and repeated injury.

The child, Murray said, had bruising on every inch of her lower extremities.

The child, Murray said, had bruising on every inch of her lower extremities.

Murray argued that Balderas should be convicted of first-degree murder under the legal theory that he killed the 2-year-old girl during the commission of child molestation.

Doctors found evidence of sexual assault when they tried to resuscitate her. Later detectives found additional evidence, according to Murray.

Deputy Public Defender Hong T. Nguyen acknowledged during the trial that Balderas caused his niece's death by hitting her, but denied that he sexually abused the girl.

“Michael Balderas spanked his niece and that spanking resulted in her death,” Nguyen said. “But one thing is clear. He did not – he never did – sexually molest her.”

Balderas took custody of Jo Jade in October 2005 after the girl's parents went to federal prison in Texas on drug charges, even though he was unemployed and living with his girlfriend.

In January 2006, Balderas brought Jo Jade back to California and moved into a townhome in Cypress.

Two months later – on March 30, 2006 – Jo Jade was dead.

Jo Jade, spanked to death at age 2

Contact the writer: lwelborn@ocregister.com or 714-834-3784

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