The Riverside County District Attorney’s office has dropped its appeal of a judge’s decision to overturn the conviction of a woman facing a retrial on murder and assault charges stemming from the death of her 2- year-old stepson in La Quinta more than 15 years ago, attorneys confirmed Friday.
Patricia Brown, 53, was found guilty in August 2016 of second-degree murder and assault on a child for the Jan. 16, 2003, death of Deetrick Brown, her husband’s son from another relationship. Prosecutors allege that the boy, who suffered several seizures leading up to his death, was shaken and slammed into surfaces on his head over the course of the eight months that he was in her care.
Eighteen months after her conviction, Riverside County Superior Court Judge John G. Evans ruled that the evidence used to convict her was insufficient and granted her a retrial on charges of murder and assault.
Prosecutors, who filed paperwork this spring to appeal Evans’ decision, confirmed that the appeal has since been “abandoned,” but did not elaborate on the reasons why.
A retrial date has not yet been set. A September 2019 hearing had been scheduled for a review on the status of the now-dismissed appeal.
In a statement released Friday, Brown’s attorney, Rodney Soda, said: “On behalf of Patricia Brown, we are pleased the District Attorney’s Office elected to abandon its appeal of Judge Evans’ ruling granting Mrs. Brown a new trial. The trial court’s ruling was correct and unassailable, and I commend the District Attorney for its recognition of that fact. I am confident that should this matter be retried, Mrs. Brown will be acquitted.”
Soda also said he still plans to have the court hear previously filed motions to have the case dismissed on several grounds.
During the 2016 trial, Assistant District Attorney Michelle Paradise told jurors that the toddler showed no signs of abuse or medical issues until he lived with the Browns, alleging that the boy’s stepmother resented having to care for him.
“Patricia Brown was forced to raise him, a child she didn’t want, a child she didn’t love, a child from another woman,” the prosecutor said in her closing argument.
Paradise said no injuries were noted by physicians while the child was in foster care, nor did he suffer any abuse at the hands of his biological mother.
Family members claimed the toddler’s seizures were the result of numerous undiagnosed ailments he had suffered since birth and that he displayed abnormal behavior, including overeating, standoffishness from other children and caretakers — including Brown — and self-mutilation through excessive scratching and picking at himself. The family maintained that scarring on one of his hands was the result of that behavior, while prosecutors alleged that Brown had submerged the tot’s hand in a hot liquid.
Evans concurred with the family’s estimation that Deetrick had prior medical issues that could have accounted for the seizures, stating that abnormal behavior and medical issues claimed by family members were in fact described by medical professionals, as well as the boy’s foster mother, during the time he was in her care. The behavior continued manifesting itself from the first day the child entered the Browns’ home, before the abuse could have possibly started, the judge found.
“The weight of the evidence supports the conclusion that Deetrick was not a normal, healthy child long before he came into the care of the Browns,” Evans ruled.
The judge also later approved a reduction of Brown’s $1 million bail to $100,000, stating that he did not believe she was a significant flight risk. While Evans did say prosecutors’ concerns that a jury had previously found Brown guilty did “weigh heavy” on his decision, he also ruled that she was not a danger to the public and had a long history and extensive ties to the community. Brown has been out of custody since March.
Brown and her husband, Derrick, were first charged with murder in 2003, but a judge who presided over a preliminary hearing that fall ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed to trial on that charge.
The Browns were re-arrested on Jan. 16, 2013 — 10 years to the day after the boy’s death — and his father was acquitted of the charges midway through the trial.