Couple burned baby son with lighter before killing him: cops

Couple burned baby son with lighter before killing him: cops

A married California couple have been charged with torturing and murdering their 1-year-old son, whose lifeless body was found wrapped in blankets in the backseat of their car Monday.

Ricardo Mendez, 27, and Antanita Miller, 24, from Barstow, were jailed in connection with the death of their son Jamari Mendez, who was taken to a Pomona hospital with burn marks and other injuries “consistent with ongoing abuse,” according to police.

The San Bernardino District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday that prosecutors have filed charges of murder, assault on a child causing death and torture against the boy’s parents. They are expected to be arraigned on May 5.

Jamari’s aunt, Leslie Mendez, told ABC7 that Ricardo, who is her brother, and Miller showed up announced with their two older children at her home at 7 p.m. Monday.

“They both walked inside like nothing happened,” Leslie recalled.

Initially, the couple claimed that their youngest child, Jamari, was staying with Miller’s mother, the aunt said, but eventually Ricardo revealed that the 1-year-old had died, and that his body was still in their car parked outside.

Family members rushed to the vehicle and discovered the unresponsive infant in the backseat.

Jamari Medez
One-year-old Jamari Mendez was pronounced dead at the hospital.
Arellano, Juan

“Everybody runs and he was covered in blankets that’s when my two other brothers helped my sister-in-law take the baby out,” Leslie said.

A relative drove Jamari to Pomona Valley Hospital, while his parents stayed behind at the family’s home.

The boy was pronounced dead on arrival and medics contacted the local police department to report a suspicious death.

“Pomona Police Detectives observed that the child/victim sustained injuries consistent with ongoing abuse,” the Barstow Police Department stated. “The officers observed visible signs of trauma to the victim’s body such as lesions, bruising, and burn marks. Some of the injuries appeared to be in different stages of the healing process.”

Further investigation uncovered that the alleged abuse likely took place at the couple’s home in Barstow, and that Jamari had died there before being driven to Pomona.

Jamari Mendez
Jamari Mendez was found with lesions, bruising, and burn marks on his body.
Arellano, Juan

Detectives later served search warrants at Mendez and Miller’s home in the 700 block of East Virginia Way and on the family car, and seized evidence “believed to have been used during the assault on the victim,” according to police.

One of the items was described as a torch lighter, which police said was likely used to inflict burns of different sizes and shapes all over Jamari’s body.

Records obtained by the Daily Press indicated that Mendez has an extensive criminal history, including two felony convictions.

In 2020, he was charged with attempted murder, making criminal threats and inflicting corporal injury on a spouse or cohabitant.

Mendez pleaded no contest to making criminal threats in exchange for having the other two counts dropped, and was sentenced to three years of probation.

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