The 5-year-old boy's dead body had been battered, bruised and beaten, maybe even bitten. The coroner's report listed his cause of death as the standard "multiple blunt force injuries," and the prosecutor said in a sworn statement that they were found "all over his body, both external and internal, including multiple fractures."
But that barely covered the reality of the brutality, according to the affidavit filed in Sacramento Superior Court on Tuesday.
"The only area of the child's body not diagramed with injuries," said the sworn statement from Deputy District Attorney Dawn Bladet, "are the palms of his hands."
Due to the extent of the injuries suffered by Braeden James Gardner, prosecutors on Tuesday added the special circumstance allegation of torture to the murder charges that had already been lodged against defendant Eduardo Zamora.
The allegation could result in the death penalty against the 31-year-old Zamora if he is convicted in the June 17 killing of the victim identified in court papers only as "Braeden G." Bladet said in court that her office hasn't decided whether to pursue capital punishment in the case.
Investigators contend the boy's fatal beating was prompted by his going to the bathroom in his pants.
In an amended complaint filed Tuesday, the District Attorney's Office also upgraded the charges against the boy's biological mother, Amber Christine Ingram, 25. Previously, Ingram had been facing only child endangerment charges. She now is accused of murder, although she was not named in the special-circumstance torture allegation.
Zamora and Ingram had been scheduled for a preliminary hearing Tuesday, but Judge Marjorie Koller put the case over until prosecutors make their death penalty decision.
Bladet's statements on Braeden's injuries came in a declaration in support of her motion – granted by the judge – to obtain DNA samples and dental impressions from Zamora and Ingram.
Bite marks were discovered on the boy's thighs, Bladet said in the declaration.
"The identity of the individual who inflicted the bite wounds may be determined if the forensic odontologist is able to do a comparison to the wounds and the known impressions of each of the suspects," Bladet said in her declaration.
The prosecutor said the "unique shape" of some of Braeden's injuries "may be consistent with sex toys and other toys found in the couple's home."
No sexual assault charges, however, are included in the new complaint.
Ingram's attorney, Assistant Public Defender Michael Nelson, said he was disappointed that prosecutors filed the murder charge against his client. Nelson blamed Zamora for the death, and the lawyer said he will produce witnesses to testify to that effect when the case goes to trial. One of them, he said, could be Ingram.
"The acts that led to Braeden's death occurred when she was at work and she did everything she could think of to stop him and was in the process of moving out," Nelson said.
Zamora's lawyer, Greg Foster, said that Bladet's declaration "as far as I know is not factually accurate." Nelson said there is no proof that the wounds on the boy's thighs resulted from bites.
As for the torture allegation, "We'll see what happens at trial," Foster said.
Sacramento County Sheriff's Detective Tom Koontz, a six-year veteran in investigating child abuse, said in an interview that the Braeden case is "probably the worst one I've seen."
"It's just amazing that all those injuries were there – and nobody said or did anything about it," he said.
Read the full story at the Sacramento Bee.