WOODLAND — A Woodland man accused of fatally injuring his infant son returned to the stand on Wednesday and continued to insist, under cross-examination by the prosecution, that he never physically harmed any of his children.
Quentin Stone, 40, has pleaded not guilty to felony and misdemeanor child endangerment charges handed down in August in a Yolo County grand jury indictment.
Stone is the husband of Davis High School girls soccer coach Sara Stone and his trial, which began April 21, has been attended daily by a number of Davis residents showing support for the family.
Prosecutors contend 3-month-old Samuel Stone died in October 2012 of traumatic head injuries consistent with ongoing abuse they argue was inflicted by Stone.
But Stone’s defense has maintained that Sam’s injuries were the result of possibly being pulled off a bed by his toddler brother a month before his death, and that Sam’s subsequent bouts of vomiting and limpness were attributed to acid reflux, rather than a possible head injury, by the family’s doctors.
The role of Sam’s brother, Jack, who was 2 1/2 at the time of Sam’s death, was the subject of questioning both Tuesday and Wednesday while his father was on the stand.
On Tuesday, Stone described walking through his front door on Sept. 5, 2012, and seeing then-2-month-old Sam lying face down on the hardwood floor of the master bedroom, just a few feet from where Stone said he had placed him — in the middle of the king-size bed — just minutes before.
Stone said he placed Sam on the bed while he went outside to collect and put away a stroller and close the garage door. Inside the house at the time were Sam’s twin brother, Hank, who was asleep in another room, and Jack. Sara Stone was in Davis coaching club soccer.
Stone said he was outside for “a couple of minutes” before returning and seeing Sam on the floor. He rushed over to pick him up and testified this week that Sam’s eyes were closed, he wasn’t moving his extremities and his breathing was labored.
Stone said he began pacing through the house, patting Sam’s back and massaging his arms and legs. After a few minutes, Stone testified, Sam began opening his eyes and breathing normally again.
While he was pacing, Stone testified that he passed by Jack’s bedroom and glanced in. Jack, Stone said, was facing away from him toward the corner of a room.
“I briefly looked at him and kept walking,” Stone said.
“Did you think (Jack) was giving himself a timeout?” prosecutor Steve Mount asked Stone on Wednesday.
“I didn’t think anything,” Stone said, explaining that he was focused on Sam.
Under further questioning from Mount and later from his own attorney, Stone said Jack would sometimes show that he knew when he had done something wrong by turning his back on his parents and walking away.
Stone took Sam to Kaiser Hospital in Vacaville later that evening where a doctor checked Sam over, found nothing wrong and sent them home. The next day, Stone testified, Sam began vomiting after feeding and several days later had an episode of going limp for several minutes.
That prompted email exchanges between the Stones and Kaiser pediatrician Dr. Yvonne Otani as well as a follow-up visit to the Davis Kaiser clinic where Stone was advised to change Sam’s feeding routine — feeding him smaller amounts more often. Medication for acid reflux was prescribed.
No tests were ordered to rule out a head injury, Stone testified, but from Sept. 13 until Oct. 3, there were no more episodes of Sam going limp and the vomiting had decreased.
“We thought the medicine was working,” Stone testified.
On the evening of Oct. 3, though, when Sara Stone was again at soccer practice and Quentin Stone home with the boys, that changed. Stone described finding Sam slumped over in his infant swing, eyes closed and breathing labored again.
This time Sam did not improve after a few minutes, prompting Stone to call 911. Paramedics would arrive and transport Sam first to Woodland Memorial Hospital and later to the UC Davis Medical Center, where Sam died a few days later.
In testimony last week, two brain-injury experts offered dueling theories as to what could have caused Sam’s death. The defense’s expert said it is possible that Sam’s head injuries stemmed from a fall from a 3-foot-high bed onto a hardwood floor. But the prosecution’s expert said he had no doubt it was a severe traumatic brain injury triggered by “adult-induced nonaccidental trauma” — formerly known in the medical field as shaken-baby syndrome — that occurred within three hours of Stone’s 911 call on Oct. 3, 2012.
“Is there anything you want to tell us that could have happened accidentally to Sam (on Oct. 3),” Mount asked Stone on Wednesday.
“Nothing at all,” Stone replied.
On redirect, Stone’s attorney, Martha Sequeira, asked him how often he cared for the boys by himself, other than the nine Monday and Wednesday evenings between Sept. 5 and Oct. 3 that his wife was at soccer practice.
“Many times,” Stone said.
“Did you ever get so angry … at one of those little boys during these times that you picked him up and shook him?” Sequeira asked Stone.
“No, never,” Stone replied.
Final testimony in the case and closing arguments are expected Thursday.
— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at [email protected] or 530-747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy