Police: Man arrested for first-degree murder after baby dies on 1st birthday

GRETNA, La. (WGNO) — A 29-year-old man is behind bars on a first-degree murder charge after an 11-month-old baby died from head injuries on his first birthday.

According to Gretna PD, officers were called to 1901 Lafayette Street the morning of July 31 in response to a baby suffering from a head injury.

The baby was taken to University Medical Center, along with the child’s mother, 22-year-old Jennifer Avila, who maintained that the child fell out of a bed and struck his head.

The mother’s boyfriend, 29-year-old Fernando DaRocha, told the same story.

The child had emergency surgery and was placed on life support. Hospital staff told police that the baby suffered multiple skull fractures, and his injuries were not consistent with a child falling.

After questioning DaRocha and Avila, the child’s mother changed her story, saying that DaRocha dropped the child in the bathtub but didn’t want to tell police.

Avila was arrested on an obstruction of justice charge for hindering the investigation, while DaRocha was arrested for second-degree cruelty to a juvenile.

On Aug. 3, the baby’s first birthday, he was taken off of life support and succumbed to his injuries.

An autopsy determined the cause of death to be homicide. The pathologist described the injuries as so severe, it looked like he was in a car accident.

“The child’s skull looked like a broken egg shell, and his back was bruised from his shoulder blades to his buttocks,” Gretna Police Chief Arthur Lawson said in a news release.

Detectives interviewed DaRocha again, but according to police, he refused to speak with detectives and “showed no signs of feeling remorse about what he did or that the child had passed away.”

DaRocha was re-booked on a first-degree murder charge.