Monday, January 25, 2016

IN THE NEWS: Ontario man sentenced to 25 years to life in prison for killing girlfriend’s 2-year-old son

By Beatriz Valenzuela, San Bernardino Sun

RANCHO CUCAMONGA >> An Ontario man was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison Thursday morning for the beating death of his girlfriend’s 2-year-old son while the man was caring for the ill child.

“I don’t wish physical harm to Michael Lucero, I don’t wish death on him,” said Cynthia Taccati, grandmother of Xzavier Taccati, the child Lucero was found guilty Sept. 21 of killing in April 2013, in a victim statement before the court. “But what I do wish for is that he never forget Xzavier. ... I want him to remember everyday why he was convicted.”

Taccati and her daughter, Xzavier’s mother Olivia Taccati, stood side-by-side in the West Valley Superior courtroom with a friend as Cynthia Taccati gave her victim impact statement. The three women held each other as Lucero, seated with his lawyers – one of whom is his father, Michael Lucero, Sr. — stared blankly and showed little emotion during the sentencing hearing.

A jury had deliberated for five hours before finding Lucero guilty of the crime, officials said.

Lucero was brought into the courtroom wearing a green jumpsuit — an indication he’s in protective custody — for the proceedings.

“Instead of planning his third birthday, we were planning his funeral,” Cynthia Taccati told the court.

“They say time heals all wounds. It doesn’t. It really doesn’t,” she said. “Pain is the only feeling left on most days.”

“I think evil came into our lives in the form of Michael Lucero,” Taccati said. “Xzavier would’ve been in first grade this year.”

Tears made her stop.

Taccati said Lucero’s sentence is nothing compared to the ones he hand-delivered to her and his mother, she said.

She added that she wants Xzavier’s picture to hang in his cell so the 22-year-old former Marine reservist could remember the little boy he killed, a little boy she and other family members said was full of life and always had a large smile and fistbump for everyone he met.

“I have never met a child so charismatic, unique, intuitive and happy,” said Xzavier’s godmother, Heather Maroj.

At trial, Deputy District Attorney Karen Schmauss presented evidence that Lucero took care of the boy while his girlfriend was at work, a situation that appears to have caused some tension. In the days leading up to Xzavier’s death, Lucero complained in text messages about having to clean up after the ill child when he threw up. He was also angry at the mother for staying at work later than he wanted her to, a reoccurring theme in their relationship.

In April 2013, Xzavier was taken to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Ontario after he lost consciousness at his home in the 1100 block of East Philadelphia Street, according to police reports. He was later transferred to Loma Linda University Medical Center, where he died following emergency surgery.

Investigators determined the boy had been hit in the head and stomach, officials said. Dr. Frank Sheridan, the county’s chief medical examiner, testified that Xzavier suffered a skull fracture with a subdural and subarachnoid hemorrhage to the brain, causing his brain to swell, according to a statement from the San Bernardino County District Attorney’s Office.

Sheridan testified Xzavier was either hit with a heavy object or had his head slammed against something. Xzavier also suffered a previous injury, a laceration of the pancreas and damage to his bowel, caused by blunt force from a strong blow to the abdomen.

It also came to light during the trial that Lucero had physically attacked and threatened Olivia Taccati.

According to the probation report, soon after Xzavier was taken to the hospital, Lucero told the young mother to tell police she had “punished him.”

Schmauss said she didn’t see “one speck of remorse” from Lucero during the trial.

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