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Mother accused of strangling baby ordered to stand trial

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) - A woman accused of beating and strangling her 7-month-old son, who was found in an alley after she said he fell from a third-story apartment window, was ordered Tuesday to stand trial on murder and assault charges.

Zewoinesh Badasso faces 25 years to life if convicted in the death of her son, David.

Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney said two passersby found the baby's body in the west alley of 4500 39th Street sometime after 5 p.m. on Sept. 7. They called police, and the child was rushed to Rady Children's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

During an autopsy, medical examiners noticed severe ligature marks around the tot's neck and other injuries to his face and neck indicating some form of beating, Rooney said.

Ryan Silver testified that he was walking on a path near a park outside the apartment complex with his then-girlfriend when he saw what "looked like a doll."

"She said, 'Oh, that better not be a baby'' Silver testified.

The woman jumped the fence and got closer and said, "It's a real baby," according to Silver.

Silver said he ran to find someone with a phone to call 911 and when he returned, Badasso was holding the lifeless child.

"She appeared to have no emotion," Silver testified.

Silver's then-girlfriend, Ryana Daniels, said she noticed scratches and cuts on the baby's neck.

She said Badasso showed up in the alley and said "That's my baby."

"She said the baby had fallen out of the window," Daniels testified, saying the 33-year-old defendant "manhandled" the child and picked him up by one arm.

Homicide detectives said the child's injuries were not consistent with a 28-foot fall from a window.

Deputy Medical Examiner Dr. Jonathan Lucas testified the baby had abrasions on his arms, legs and forehead and had his fingernails clipped very short.

The victim had bruises to the left cheek and chin as if something had been pressed against his face, Lucas testified.

Imprints of Badasso's flip-flops were presented in court as a possible cause of the bruising.

The baby also had contusions near the jaw line and fingernail markings around his neck consistent with strangulation, according to Lucas, who said the child also had multiple rib fractures consistent with squeezing.

He said the baby was dead before he fell or was thrown out of the window, saying he couldn't be sure if the baby actually fell, as Badasso told police.

"It's possible the fall never occurred," Lucas testified.

At Badasso's arraignment, defense attorney Amy McDonald said her client moved to the United States from Ethiopia about 12 years ago and had been in San Diego only a short time.

Badasso did not know her baby had died until McDonald visited her in jail 24 hours later, the attorney said.

McDonald said Badasso was staying with three "friends of a friend" when it happened. The defendant had moved into the apartment three days earlier, her attorney said.

"She said she had her son in her arms, and that she wasn't familiar with the window -- it was a new place she had just moved in -- and she was holding him and trying to open the window, and there was no screen on the window, the baby just kind of jerked and fell, fell out of her arms and fell out the window," McDonald said.

Superior Court Judge John Einhorn ruled that enough evidence was presented at the preliminary hearing for Badasso to stand trial Nov. 14. A Nov. 6 readiness conference was also scheduled.

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