Baby's father testifies at trial
WORTHINGTON -- Although cousin Ivan Sosa testified that Jose "Lupe" Chavarria was very emotional, it was not evident during Chavarria's testimony on Tuesday as he was shown pictures of his infant daughter.
He answered questions about his whereabouts on Oct. 28 through Nov. 5 2004, which is when his 3-month-old daughter, Ashanta, was severely injured and ultimately died.
Chavarria seemed unmoved as he looked at a photo of himself and the baby, and said he had written the words "Daddy's baby girl" on the bottom. He admitted later he had given up his parental rights to his son Avanta because he "wasn't fit to take of his special needs."
On trial for Ashanta's death is her mother, 20-year-old Lisa Shane of Adrian. Shane is being charged with two counts of second-degree murder and one count of child neglect. An autopsy ruled the manner of death as homicide.
The child died from closed head trauma due to child abuse. The trial is in its second week of testimony in the Nobles County District Court.
Chavarria said he first began a relationship with Shane when he was released from prison in 2002 after being convicted of second-degree assault. The couple had two children together, both of whom were born premature and had medical problems.
Chavarria was sent back to jail Sept. 19, 2004, for misdemeanor assault charges against Shane and was released a few weeks later -- on Oct. 28. He testified he was with Shane when Ashanta was born in July and visited her in the hospital often until he was arrested. Shane was not released until Oct. 1.
"Did you ever see Ashanta again while she was alive after you were arrested?" asked Assistant Attorney General William Klumpp.
"No," Chavarria answered.
Shane has accused Chavarria of coming to her home the morning of Oct. 28 around 11 a.m. and getting into an argument with her. She said Chavarria pushed her, causing her to drop the baby, who then hit her head on a metal futon frame.
Chavarria said there was no truth to Shane's accusations, stating that he was never at her home on the morning of Oct. 28, and that he never shoved her and caused her to drop the baby. He said he knew her address in Adrian, but had never been to her home there, as she had moved from Worthington to Adrian while he was in jail.
Chavarria testified he spoke with Shane the day before he was released and asked if he could live with her. He said Shane told him he could not until he went through treatment and got a job.
"She said not to even think about showing up, or she would call the Adrian Police Department and have me thrown back in jail," he said.
Until he received a call from Sosa's fiancée, Jessica Ling, on Oct. 29, Chavarria said he was unaware of any problems with his daughter's health.
Ling testified earlier that Shane had called her looking for Chavarria.
"She said she had an emergency with her daughter due to RSV shots ... said there was a brain bleed," Ling said. "She asked if I'd seen Lupe or if I knew if he got out of jail."
Ling contacted Sosa, who said Chavarria might be at the house of Belinda Ramos-Duran. Ling added that she found him there and informed him of Ashanta's health problems. She said he seemed confused, even after speaking to Shane briefly by phone.
"I asked (Shane) what happened -- she said she didn't know, but thought it was from the RSV shots," Chavarria said.
Ling, her children and Chavarria went to Sioux Valley Hospital in Sioux Falls, but Chavarria said he did not go in because "he did not want to see his daughter like that" and worried there was a warrant for his arrest from 2003.
Testimony of Chavarria, Sosa, Ling and Ramos-Duran followed Chavarria's path from Sioux Falls to Worthington, Albert Lea, Faribault, Owatonna and back to Worthington to end up in jail at Prairie Justice Center for failure to provide an address as terms of probation. Chavarria also indicated he had done methamphetamine shortly after getting to Ramos-Duran's house the day he got out of jail and throughout the first night he was there.
Chavarria was released from jail again on Nov. 5 and went to his father's house in Iowa. While there, he was informed by an agent of the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension by phone that his daughter had died.
Today's testimony is expected to be from Shane's mother and sister, a Worthington detective and the Sioux Falls detectives who interviewed Shane shortly after Ashanta was transferred to Sioux Valley Hospital.