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Manslaughter verdict delivered six years after baby’s death

Six years after the death of James Velasquez, a man has been convicted of first-degree manslaughter for fatally injuring the 13-month-old boy.

Raymond Gonzalez, 39, was convicted of causing fatal head injuries to his girlfriend’s baby when he was watching the child alone in May 2010.

State Supreme Court Justice Penny M. Wolfgang delivered her verdict without comment Thursday following a nonjury trial.

During the trial, Erika Velasquez testified that she and her mother had left her son with Gonzalez for about an hour and a half while they went grocery shopping. She said the baby appeared to be all right and sleeping when they returned home, although Gonzalez told her the child had vomited and he cleaned it up.

She described her son as an active little boy with a good appetite, so she was somewhat concerned when he fussed and refused a bottle after she got home. Then, when she went to check on him at dinner time, she said, she realized something was very wrong.

“I saw James on his stomach, covered in vomit and gasping for air,” she testified.

She wanted to call 911 immediately.

“But Raymond said no, that CPS would come and take him away,” she testified.

She called anyway and the baby was taken to Women & Children’s Hospital, where staff reported to police that the baby may have been abused. While James’s mother stayed with him, investigators went to the home and questioned Gonzalez, who denied having been alone with the baby.

James was declared brain dead the following day and removed from life support. He died on May 3, 2010.

Dr. Mark LeVaughn, who was an assistant medical examiner for Erie County at that time, performed the autopsy. He testified that the baby had no visible injuries but there was significant bruising under the skin. More significantly, he said, the child’s brain was severely swollen and hemorrhaging. The case languished while investigators sorted through conflicting versions of what happened in the hours and days before Erika Velasquez called 911, but the investigation was revived in 2014.

The District Attorney’s Office worked with homicide detectives Christopher F. Sterlace and Salvatore Valvo to build the case and Gonzalez was charged with manslaughter in March 2015. Homicide Bureau Chief Colleen Curtin Gable is the prosecutor,

Sentencing is set for Sept. 22.


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