Local News

Wednesday, Oct 30 2013 08:24 PM

Father of slain boy, 3, says he thought son would be safe with ex-girlfriend

BY JASON KOTOWSKI Californian staff writer jkotowski@bakersfield.com

Eavan Fanshier had no issues leaving his young son in the care of Stormy Roberts after the two ended their relationship in 2010. Roberts wasn't the boy's biological mother, but she treated James Lee Fanshier as if he was her own child.

He thought James would be safe with her.

But James was dead within a year.

Fanshier's testimony Wednesday came during the fourth day of the trial for Dustin Wedel, who's charged with the murder of 3-year-old James. The child suffered broken ribs, a broken arm, injuries to his pancreas, bowels and genitals, and bruising over much of his body.

He died Jan. 23, 2011 as a result of multiple blunt force injuries. Prosecutor Andrea Kohler has said Wedel, who dated Roberts after Fanshier, was the only person with James in the hours during which the most severe injuries were inflicted.

Defense attorney Fred Gagliardini, however, said "science isn't that good at dating injuries," and noted there were several people around James in the days before his death.

Gagliardini asked Fanshier why he and Roberts broke up. Fanshier said he still doesn't know.

The attorney asked if it was because she caught him whipping James with a belt on his bare buttocks while the boy faced a wall. Fanshier denied ever doing that.

He also denied causing other injuries to James, including a cut on the boy's penis that Roberts noticed a couple days before his death. The boy told Roberts that Fanshier cut him.

Fanshier said James had stayed at his house the weekend before, and there were no injuries to the boy's genitals when he bathed him. He denied hurting him.

Kohler asked if he would cut his own son.

"No. Actually, no child," Fanshier answered.

James passed into the custody of several people during his short life. Fanshier and Sommer Ruiz were his biological parents, but they broke up three months after his birth.

The boy spent the next seven months with Ruiz's aunt in Idaho. Then Ruiz brought him back to California.

He lived with her until Fanshier left a group home at the age of 18 and took full custody. Fanshier then dated Roberts, and the boy lived with her in Taft until his death.

Kern County sheriff's Sgt. Avery Simpson investigated James' death. He quickly honed in on Wedel, and admitted Wednesday to calling Wedel a "piece of (expletive deleted)" in the presence of Roberts' relatives, and also to describing the boy's injuries before the autopsy report had been released.

Gagliardini took issue with that, noting that the 27-year-old Wedel wasn't arrested until six months after James' death. He told Simpson there were other people around James, and questioned why the sergeant would reveal autopsy details before conducting all of his interviews with potential witnesses.

Gagliardini asked Simpson if he agreed he let his emotions get carried away. Simpson said he didn't agree.

"You wouldn't? Awesome!" Gagliardini said sarcastically.

Judge Kenneth C. Twisselman II told Gagliardini to stick to asking questions, and Gagliardini ended his cross-examination.

The trial continues Thursday.

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