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Mistrial declared in baby murder case

Jurors were unable to reach a consensus on the second-degree murder and first-degree assault charges against Oak Harbor resident Eric Flores after deliberations this week.

Flores was convicted of the second-degree criminal mistreatment charge, but the jury was hung on the murder and assault charges.

Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Steve Selby said he will decide in the next couple of weeks whether or not to re-file the charges against Flores, which would likely mean a new trial.

Flores, 22, will face a standard range sentence of one to three months in jail for the criminal mistreatment conviction.

Flores was accused of assaulting his teenaged wife’s infant son, six-week-old Aeriq-Flores, on Christmas day of 2000. The baby’s head injuries were serious enough that a couple caring for the baby woke up the next morning to find the baby dead.

The criminal mistreatment charge is based on the fact that Flores didn’t bring the baby to get medical care even though he showed signs of injury. Flores testified that he noticed that one of the baby’s eyes was droopy and the eye wandered after the baby fell from a bed.

Flores brought the baby to a couple’s home to babysit that night, but he told them the baby’s eye problems were caused by a cold. Yet he drove home afterward to call his mother in New Mexico and asked her advice in dealing with the baby’s eye condition.

The complicated and lengthy trial, which ended Jan. 18, included testimony about the baby’s severe injuries from the prosecution’s four expert witnesses, who testified that the baby’s 18-inch fall from a bed couldn’t have caused the brain damage.

The experts also testified that medical intervention may have saved the infant.

Selby tried to prove that the injury occurred while Flores was alone with the two children — the baby and the couple’s toddler daughter — that afternoon.

Police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians were at the couple’s house that day until around 2 p.m. because Flores’ wife, Crystal, had tried to commit suicide. They ended up taking her to the hospital, leaving Flores alone with the baby.

Several of the emergency responders testified that they saw the baby at that time and he was healthy, showing no signs of a head injury.

Flores’ attorney, Susan Gaer of Snohomish, argued that the Crystal, whom she characterized as “out of control” that morning, could have injured the baby before the emergency personnel arrived. She suggested that the baby may not have shown signs of a head injury until after the emergency responders left. She also questioned how closely the personnel examined the baby.

Flores and Gaer could not be reached for comment.

Selby said his decision on whether or not to retry Flores on the murder and assault charge depends, in part, on whether he can get the witnesses back together.

Selby said he’s “disappointed” in the verdict.

“Sometimes it seems like nobody cares about that baby,” he said.

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