Mother charged in baby's death pleads not guilty

Zewoinesh Badasso held on $2 million bail

SAN DIEGO - A woman accused of beating and strangling her 7-month-old son, who was pronounced dead after apparently falling from a third-story apartment window in Normal Heights, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of murder and assault on a child.

Zewoinesh Badasso, 33, was ordered held on $2 million bail. She faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted.

Deputy District Attorney Nicole Rooney said two passersby found the baby's lifeless body in the west alley of 4500 39th Street sometime after 5 p.m. Friday.

They called police, and the child was rushed to Rady Children's Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, the prosecutor said.

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

Defense attorney Amy McDonald said Badasso moved to the United States from Ethiopia about 12 years ago and had been in San Diego only a short time.

McDonald said from what she's been told so far, the baby's death was an accident.

The baby was the result of a rape by a stranger in Las Vegas and was born prematurely, McDonald said.

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

"Apparently no one had informed her that he had passed away," McDonald told reporters. "She just doesn't understand what's really going on."

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.

Badasso said the baby had fallen, according to McDonald.

"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.

Bars were on the window the next day, according to the attorney.

McDonald said that as far as she knew, there was no one else in the apartment when the incident occurred. Badasso did go down to the alley after her baby fell, the attorney said.

The defendant was still breast-feeding her son at the time of his death, McDonald said.

"So, the concept that she's this non-caring mother who could just throw her kid out the window, no way," McDonald said. "You don't nurse a child for seven months if you're not into mothering."

A preliminary hearing was scheduled for Sept. 25.

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