UPDATE: Richland man arrested, charged with manslaughter in baby's death

Tri-City HeraldJune 10, 2013 

— A Richland man has been charged with manslaughter for the death of his girlfriend’s 9-month-old daughter.

Jose Luis Aguilar, 36, was arrested Saturday night on a Greyhound bus at a station in Barstow, Calif. Police believe he was headed to Mexico, and they tracked him using the GPS in his cellphone.

Aguilar fled the Tri-Cities shortly before Jennifer Reedy, 31, found her baby, Serenity Jade Reedy, dead Friday in her crib, according to an arrest warrant affidavit. Her skull was fractured and she suffered a cut and injuries to her vaginal area.

Prosecutors moved quickly Saturday night to file a first-degree manslaughter charge to keep Aguilar from being released from jail, Benton County Prosecutor Andy Miller said Monday at a press conference. Prosecutors will re-evaluate the case to see if any additional charges will be filed, Miller said.

“It appears that Mr. Aguilar was on his way to flee to Mexico,” Miller said. “If we didn’t get the charges filed Saturday night, he would not have been kept in custody in Barstow.”

Aguilar is being held at the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., on $1 million bail. He is scheduled to appear in court Tuesday.

Reedy called 911 at 9:57 a.m. Friday from her house at 29 Log Lane in Richland to report that she found Serenity purple in color and cold to the touch, the affidavit said. Medics found Serenity not breathing and pronounced her dead at the scene. An autopsy performed Saturday by Dr. Carl Wigren, a forensic pathologist from Seattle, showed Serenity died from “abusive head trauma,” said Benton County Coroner John Hansens.

The autopsy also revealed a cut and injuries to the girl’s vaginal area, the affidavit said. When asked about that by the Herald at the press conference, Hansens said he will wait until Wigren releases his final report in a few weeks to talk about those injuries.

Serenity suffered at least two separate skull fractures, the affidavit said. Beneath the skull fractures were subdural hematomas — injuries which can result from major head trauma. Wigren found hemorrhaging around her eyes and bleeding in part of her brain. Reedy told police she went to dinner with Aguilar — who had been living at 29 Log Lane for about a month — and Serenity on Thursday night, the affidavit said. Serenity was acting normal during dinner. After the meal, Reedy left her with Aguilar while she went to do laundry and go to Walmart.

When Reedy got home around 9 p.m., Serenity was in her crib making “normal sounds,” the affidavit said. Reedy told police she went to bed and woke up around midnight to see Aguilar sleeping next to her, the affidavit said. When she woke up at 3 a.m. he was not in bed, and when she woke up again at 5 a.m., he still was not in bed.

After Reedy got out of bed, she saw that her car was missing and cash from her purse was gone, the affidavit said. She called Aguilar, who told her he was in Oregon on his way to California.

Reedy said she didn’t check on Serenity when she got up because it was normal for the baby to be asleep in the early morning, the affidavit said. When Reedy checked for the first time, sometime after 9:30 a.m., she found her lifeless in the crib. A Richland police detective called Aguilar on Friday afternoon, the affidavit said. He told the detective that a friend had told him about the baby’s death. He reportedly was emotional and crying on the phone.

Aguilar told the detective that while Reedy was out, Serenity fell from a couch about 15 inches from the ground after he left her alone in the living room, the affidavit said. Aguilar said Serenity didn’t cry after the fall and there were no bruises on her.

Aguilar then gave the baby a bottle and some baby food before putting her in her crib around 8:30 p.m., the affidavit said. He said he left the house after midnight when he got upset with Reedy.

Wigren told authorities that Serenity’s head injuries could not come from a fall from a couch, the affidavit said.

-- Tyler Richardson: 582-1556; trichardson@tricityherald.com; Twitter: @Ty_richardson

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