The trial of Aaron Moton, accused of one of the most brutal child murder cases in years, is now in the hands of a Fresno County jury.
After more than a week of testimony, the jury must decide if the 24-year-old food processing plant worker is guilty of beating his girlfriend’s 2-year-old so severely that he split the toddler’s liver, ruptured his vertebrae and caused massive internal bleeding.
Xander Villalobos was just three days away from turning 3 when he was killed Oct. 5, 2021. Xander and his mother, Nikkey Rojas, lived in a west-central Fresno apartment along with Moton.
Moton has denied hurting Xander, a child he helped take care of when he moved into the apartment in 2021.
Prosecution closing argument in murder trial
Prosecutor Amy Cobb and defense attorney Scott Kinney delivered their closing statements Wednesday in a courtroom packed with friends and relatives of Xander.
Cobb, a senior deputy district attorney, made it clear to the jury that the fatal injuries did not come from an accidental fall. Xander died at the hands of a human: Moton.
A forensic pathologist testified that the only other thing that could have caused the massive injuries was a high-speed collision, she said.
“But he was not in a high-speed accident,” Cobb said. “This happened in the home and within a short time period.”
Detectives believe Moton caused the child’s death within the span of about 10 minutes when Rojas left the apartment to meet her sister, who was dropping off a pair of Xander’s shoes.
When Rojas returned, Xander was nearly lifeless. His body was limp, his eyes were closed and his breathing was labored. Rojas asked Moton what happened, and he said he did not know, according to her testimony.
Rojas called 911 and Xander was taken to Community Regional Medical Center, where he died.
Cobb was adamant that Moton was the only one in the room who had the opportunity to hurt Xander. She reminded the jury of Moton’s past that includes a conviction for battery and accusations he tried to choke an ex-girlfriend.
Aaron Moton’s defense in murder case
Kinney, Moton’s attorney, said the prosecutor failed to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. He reminded the jury that Rojas was initially a suspect along with Moton.
He suggested Rojas was the alleged killer and not his client. Kinney found it hard to believe that Rojas did not notice the bruises all over Xander’s body.
Photos taken at the child’s autopsy revealed a series of new and old bruises on his legs, back and head. When questioned by Kinney, Rojas said she did not notice the bruises.
“How come every other person clearly saw bruises?” Kinney asked the jury. “What does that mean? It means she is a liar and you should throw out her testimony.”
Kinney suggested that the reason Rojas did not mention the bruises to investigators was because she would then have to explain how the child became injured.
“Who is she protecting? She is protecting herself,” Kinney said.
If convicted, Moton could face up to 25-years-to-life in prison.
The jury will continue deliberating Thursday.