Sacto 9-1-1
February 4, 2013
Baby's death in day care home was SIDs case, expert claims

By Sam Stanton
sstanton@sacbee.com

The trial of former day care operator Sheila Caceres entered its second week today, with a medical expert testifying that the infant who died while in her care was a victim of sudden infant death syndrome.

Dr. Robert Rothfeder, brought in by Caceres' defense as an expert witness, said that after reviewing evidence in the case he determined that Avin Rominger was a victim of SIDS and that nothing could have been done to save the little boy.

"Even if the child had been found five seconds after the child took their last breath, it wouldn't have mattered," said Rothfeder, who was flown in from Utah after being paid $5,000 in fees to review the case and travel to Sacramento.

"Nothing would make any difference," he added. "The die was cast."

The reason for Avin's Feb. 23, 2011, death inside Sheila's Garden Day Care in Mather remains a mystery. The Sacramento County coroner ruled it a case of "sudden unexpected infant death," but added that "medical intervention could have saved the baby's life."

That finding is key to the case against Caceres, who faces a felony count of child endangerment along with one misdemeanor charge. She could face six years in prison if convicted.

While the defense contends Avin's death was from SIDS, authorities have noted that Caceres delayed calling 911 for help once she found the 10-week-old baby unresponsive.

Avin's parents, Dave and Rachelle Rominger, testified last week and have said that when Dave Rominger showed up to pick Avin up that day Caceres opened the door as if nothing was wrong.

She went upstairs to retrieve him from a portable playpen, then came running downstairs shouting for Rominger to call 911.

But inconsistencies in Caceres' story about what happened led to further investigation. She initially told sheriff's detectives that Avin had been sleeping downstairs and that she found him unresponsive in a crib.

A day later, she called Detective Darin Pometta and changed her story, saying she found Avin unresponsive in a car seat upstairs at about 4:30 p.m. and placed him on his side in the playpen, rubbed his back and went downstairs until Dave Rominger showed up, authorities have said.

Dave Rominger showed up shortly before 5 p.m. and called 911 at 4:58 p.m.

Pometta took the stand shortly before noon today and is expected to continue testifying this afternoon.

State day care regulations do not allow infants to be kept upstairs in a day care home, and Pometta testified today that when he inspected the playpen he found a discoloration on the blanket in one corner.

A sheriff's report has said the spot was a circular bloodstain.

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