Crime

Turlock boy, 2, beaten to death by dad

TURLOCK -- The toddler who was beaten to death on a dark country road Saturday night was killed by his father, authorities said Monday.

Sergio Aguiar, 27, of Turlock was killed with a single shot to the forehead fired by Modesto police officer Jerry Ramar, who was dropped on the scene in rural Stanislaus County via helicopter as Aguiar kicked and stomped the small boy's head.

Aguiar had parked his gold 2002 Toyota pickup in the eastbound lane, into traffic, and viciously attacked the motionless child as passers-by frantically dialed 911 and tried to stop him.

Aguiar seemed calm and spoke of "demons" in the boy. He had no criminal history, authorities said.

The 2-year-old boy later was pronounced dead at Emanuel Medical Center in Turlock.

Deputy Rob Latapie, 39, piloting a Sheriff's Department helicopter, spotlighted the scene and saw Aguiar kicking the child "like a soccer ball" and immediately made the decision to land in a cow pasture. Ramar, the flight tactical officer, jumped from the helicopter and ran about 20 yards, his duty weapon drawn, before reaching a set of barbed wire and electric fences. He commanded Aguiar to stop. Aguiar raised his middle finger and kicked the baby again. Ramar fired a single shot, killing Aguiar instantly, police said.

"I'm proud of my flight officer," Latapie said Monday.

"Making a shot like that, under those conditions, in a low-light, high-stress condition, is almost unheard of. There aren't a lot of people who can make a shot like that in daylight at that range."

Ramar said any officer would have done what he did. "I'm just a regular cop trying to do a regular cop's job," he said.

Birth records show the boy was born May 8, 2006. His name has not been made public, but a manager at the Turlock apartment complex where the mother, Frances Liliana Casian, and son lived said he was named after the father: Sergio.

Neighbors said investigators visited the building late Saturday night. The mother and child were quiet and kept to themselves, they said. It is unclear whether Aguiar also lived in the complex. His name is not on the lease, nor is he listed as an emergency contact or frequent visitor.

Two miles away, four cars clustered outside the toddler's grandparents' home off Fulkerth Road in Turlock. Sitting on a couch in a dark living room, shades drawn, Casian was surrounded by older women in dark clothing. Eyes heavy, everyone looked as if they had been crying.

Asked whether she wanted to talk Monday, the mother's reply was short, clipped, "No. No."

Pictures of family and children, including a smiling baby boy, lined the foyer by the front door.

"What an unspeakable crime," said Stanislaus County Sheriff Adam Christianson. "We may never know why the suspect beat that child to death. We hope to find out, but it's going to take a lot more work."

Investigators worked Monday to positively identify Aguiar and the toddler. Because the child was beaten beyond recognition, DNA technology will have to be used for proper identification, Christianson said.

The cab of the Toyota pickup also was covered with blood that needs to be tested, he said.

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