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Local fireman faces charges for death of his son

reporters@samoanews.com

A local firefighter is facing charges of manslaughter and homicide by vehicle, in connection with the death of his one year old son two years ago. Juliano Tavale a fireman with the local Fire Bureau at the Department of Public Safety made his initial appearance in District Court yesterday morning, after Criminal Investigation Division detectives with the Department of Public Safety, served him with an arrest warrant.

Manslaughter is a class C felony carries a jail term of up to seven years, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. Homicide by vehicle count is punishable up to five years in jail, a fine up to $5,000 or both.

According to the government’s case, CID Captain Lavata’i Ta’ase Sagapolutele received a written report from LBJ Emergency Room’s Dr James Marone, regarding a suspected case of child abuse. Captain Latava’i assigned a detective to this case on July 30, 2010.

Court documents cite Dr Marone’s report as saying that a one year old child was checked into the LBJ hospital on July 25, 2010 at about 6pm almost totally unresponsive and barely breathing. Dr Maroney’s report alleges the victim had several bruises on his upper body and legs.

Tavale told Dr Marone his son fell off a wooden chair but that he cried and acted normal again, however there was a bump on the back of his head. Dr Maroney’s report goes on to say Tavale said that later the same evening, he and his son were in a pickup truck when the victim fell again and hit his head on the dash board and passed out. Court documents say the one year old was placed on life support and died the next day.

According to court documents, the investigating officer interviewed the victim’s mother, who said Tavale took their son but later received a distress call from Tavale that he’s taking their son to the hospital.

The victim’s mother told police Tavale said to her while they were on the road, the victim was crying and tried to climb on the defendant’s left arm while he was driving. It’s alleged that when Tavale tried to make the victim sit in the car seat, the victim fell and hit his head on the dashboard and was unconscious.

According to the government’s case, the investigating detective attended the autopsy performed on the victim by Dr Ivy Clemente and saw several bruises on the victim’s head.  According to Dr Clemente’s autopsy report, the immediate cause of death was determined to be an Acute Subdural Hamtoma with diffuse cerebral edema and basal skull fracture. The underlying cause of the hematoma was due to blunt force injury to the head.

The investigating officers met with Tavale who broke down in tears and told police that he picked up his son from his sister’s house and placed him on the passenger seat without any child restraint seat. The defendant told police while he was driving his son was crying and crawling up his shoulder and he placed his son back on the passenger seat and continued driving.

Court documents state that when Tavale approached Futiga, he was driving at a high rate speed, his son crawled up on his shoulder while crying out loud. The defendant said while attempting to place his son on the passenger seat he accidentally hit the brakes and the car swerved to the side of the road causing his son to fall hitting the back of his head on the dash board. The defendant went on to say that his son was thrown towards the passenger side hitting his forehead on the door.

The defendant admitted that he then stopped the car and tried to resuscitate his son but he was unconscious and was not moving.  When the investigating officer asked the defendant about the bruises on the victim’s body, the defendant admitted that he accidentally slapped his son hard several times prior to the incident. Tavale apologized to police for his carelessness towards performing his parental duties and he should have known better and provided his son with some kind of restraint in the vehicle.

Tavale is held on a $20,000 bail at the Tafuna Correctional Facility.



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