A judge today ordered a woman to stand trial for murder on charges she burned her two-month-old baby to death by placing her in a microwave oven.
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Eugene Balonon also found evidence to support the special allegation filed by prosecutors that Ka Yang also tortured the baby. The allegation would guarantee Yang a life term in prison with no chance of parole if she is convicted. Prosecutors earlier agreed to not pursue the death penalty because Yang has no prior criminal record.
Yang, 30, is accused in the March 17 burning death of her infant daughter, Mirabelle Thao-Lo, in their home on Rood Avenue in the Robla neighborhood on the city's north side.
In a hearing that lasted less than three hours, Yang's history of seizures that goes back at least seven years emerged today as a key issue in her case.
Deputy District Attorney Chris Ore and defense lawyer Linda Parisi sparred through their questions of Sacramento police witnesses about experts' views on the capabilities of a person in the middle of different types of seizures.
Investigators who testified today said Yang told them she had no recollection of burning the child, that she had suffered a seizure.
"I see a white flash, I see trees, then I have a seizure," Sacramento police Det. Thomas Shrum testified that Yang told him in an interview.
Much of the testimony of Shrum today focused on the more severe "tonic-clonic" seizures that showed up in Yang's medical history versus less serious "focal" seizures in which a person can continue to perform routine functions despite the attack.
Det. Hanspeter Merten testified that Yang's story changed several times during the course of her interviews with police.
"There were many differnet stories she told me," Merten testified.
Coroner's forensic patholigist Dr. Gregory Reiber said the little girl suffered first-, second-, third- and even fourth-degree burns over 60 percent of her body.
The most severe of them appeared to be a "radiation" burn in her lower chest, Reiber testified. He called it a "focused hot-spot injury, most consistent with a microwave injury than anything else."
Reiber estimated the girl suffered "probably around two minutes of exposure."
He said the burns "cooked" the little girl's stomach and small intestine. He said the pain from those injuries would have been "severe."
Police said that Yang told them the girl had been fussy the day of her death, that her efforts to soothe the child by giving her a bottle and a pacifier and putting her in a swing did not work.
Investigators said they recovered the baby's pacifier from inside the microwave oven.
Judge Eugene Balanon is expected to rule later today on whether to order Yang to stand trial.