Witnesses Testify Monday at Trial of Man Charged in Clive Toddler’s Murder

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DES MOINES, Iowa -- The prosecution presenting its case Monday in the trial of a man accused of killing his girlfriend's 20-month-old daughter in 2014.

Joe Lopez, 26, is charged with first-degree murder and child endangerment resulting in death. Ruby Alvarez died Dec. 3, 2014 after she sustained serious injuries to her skull and ribs five days prior.

Lopez claims Ruby fell from her high chair at a home in the 8900 block of Franklin Avenue, however, prosecutors say that explanation doesn't add up.

 Monday statements

The prosecution called its first witness Monday, a detective from the Clive police department.

The prosecution showed jurors photos the detective took of Ruby at Blank Children's Hospital on Dec. 2, the day before she died. He said the purpose of taking the photos was to document the injuries Ruby sustained. The detective appeared to get emotional during his testimony.

The state also showed photos of the basement apartment in Clive, where Joe Lopez lived with Ruby's mother. The photos show the kitchen area, where Lopez says he brought Ruby on Nov. 29.

Lopez claimed the child had been crying, so he fed her some turkey, placed her in a high chair and then went to the bathroom, leaving the child unattended.

Some photos showed a tape measure at the tray of the high chair, which is 31 inches from the floor. The defense said Ruby was 32-inches-tall, maintaining that the child learned to stand on the high chair and accidentally fell on Nov. 29.

The prosecution argued that there's no way a ground-level fall could cause a child's death.

A pediatric radiologist then took the stand Monday, who took a CAT scan of the child's skull. He said he found bleeding between her brain and skull and a number of skull fractures. The radiologist claimed the CAT scan showed Ruby suffered from "non-accidental trauma," meaning he did not believe her injuries were caused by an accident.

The defense questioned the doctor’s expertise.

Friday opening statements

The jury heard opening statements Friday, Jan. 8. The prosecution told jurors that the death of Ruby Alvarez was not an accident. The defense told jurors that Lopez left the child unattended in a high chair and she fell while Lopez was in the bathroom.