LOVINGTON, N.M. (KRQE) – Police and medical professionals dominated the second day of testimony in the trial of a Hobbs teen accused of throwing her newborn baby into a dumpster. Charged in the January 2022 case, Alexis Avila is facing one count of attempted first degree murder (willful and deliberate), or, alternatively, one count of of child abuse resulting in great bodily harm.
After getting through their twelfth witness Wednesday, prosecutors could be finished presenting their cases as early as Thursday morning. The trial is expected to last through Friday.
Avila’s case began after police were called to a dumpster at the Broadmoor Shopping Center in Hobbs after 7 p.m. on January 7, 2022. Three people who had been digging through the dumpster found Avila’s baby boy in a trash bag, alive, with an umbilical cord still attached.
First responding officers testify
Jurors heard from four different witnesses Wednesday morning, including three people from Hobbs Police and a Hobbs emergency room physician. Presenting evidence, prosecutors showed jurors police body camera video recorded by Earl Bittick, one of two Hobbs Police officers who were the first to arrive at the scene where the baby was found.
“Hold on, hold on, hold on,” Bittick can be heard saying in the recording, speaking to the three people who found the boy. “Keep him warm! Keep him covered up!”
Another witness, Hobbs Police officer Jennifer Maxwell described arriving on the scene after 7 p.m., finding the boy in the care of April Nuttall. Nuttall had pulled the boy out of a trash bag. Maxwell described Nuttall as caring for the boy.
“The baby was inside her jacket, wrapped in a wet towel, sitting on her chest,” Maxwell said. “That night it was about 40 degrees or lower and that towel was wet, and the towel even felt, you know, if you like put a wet towel in the freezer, that’s what it felt like, it was super cold.”
Maxwell described finding the boy with a cut umbilical cord and “hardly breathing.” The boy wasn’t moving, Maxwell said, and didn’t open his eyes.
During cross examination, Avila’s attorney Ibukun Adeopoju attempted to highlight to the jury a lack of perspective on the entirety of the medical care the boy received, and details of the boy’s condition. Avila’s defense asked more questions of Officer Maxwell, noting how she didn’t ride in the ambulance with the boy to the hospital.
Doctor describes boy’s initial condition
An ambulance eventually responded to the scene and took the boy to the Covenant Health Hobbs Hospital. In the emergency room, Dr. Susan Heineck reviewed the boy’s condition, describing him as “cold to the touch.”
“When I was in the room, they were attempting to do a rectal temperature on this child and the temperature would not even read on the digital thermometer,” Heineck said, noting that she’s never had a patient with condition in her nearly 30 year career. “That means the temperature was below 80 [degrees Fahrenheit.]”
Prosecutors spent much of Wednesday morning’s testimony trying to establish the boy’s poor health and medical interventions that were taken to keep the boy alive. A prosecutor on the case, Mark Probasco asked what the baby’s likelihood of survival was without medical treatment. The baby was said to be profoundly hypothermic and at risk for infection due to an unclamped umbilical cord.
“This baby would have died if we would have not intervened and resuscitated,” Dr. Heineck said. “We had to obviously warm the child, which involved being under the heat lamp, heated blankets, heated IV fluids, that was the biggest thing, we provided supplemental oxygen, we tried to warm that too.”
During Dr. Heineck’s cross examination, Avila’s defense attorneys tried to emphasize the unknown nature of a bruise observed on the baby’s head, which was shown to jurors in evidentiary photos. Dr. Heineck noted that she has only seen bruising on a baby’s head when there’s a forceps delivery, vacuum delivery, or trauma.
“Trauma… maybe the baby was born in kind of just fell out to the floor?” Adepoju asked Dr. Heineck. The doctor responded, “Something like that, or… yeah … that could be, yes, that could happen”
“Maybe, a bathroom floor at home?” Adepoju asked. Dr. Heineck responded, “anything where the baby’s head impacts something could cause that bruising.”
Crime scene technician & medical experts testify
Rounding out testimony Wednesday morning, jurors heard from a Hobbs Police Crime Scene Technician. Jurors saw several photos of the contents of the trash bag the baby was found in.
Jurors also saw photos of Avila’s home, showing clothing and towels saturated in blood. A asthma inhaler drug prescription box was also found in the trash bag that the boy was found in. The box clearly displays the name of Alexis Avila.
Over the course of the afternoon, jurors heard from several other medical professionals, including a neonatal specialist that helped treat the boy; an expert in pediatrics and child abuse, and a medical records supervisor. A doctor at the Covenant Children’s Hospital Lubbock where the boy was transferred, Dr. Dharmendra Kumar said Wednesday the boy spent about six days in the neonatal intensive care unit, with roughly four of those days in his care.
Kumar described the boy as having a high level of creatinine in his system indicating that the boy was at risk for kidney failure. The boy was also given a blood transfusion after doctors found a low level of red blood cells.
“Similar to the kidney failure, if [the blood transfusion] had not been administered, would their be other organ failure, potentially?” asked prosecutor Alyssa Cervantes, a special assistant district attorney with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office. Dr. Kumar responded, “yes,” adding that no medical treatment could have resulted in death.
In cross examination, Avila’s defense attorney Ibukun Adepoju highlighted that babies born in certain conditions could be more likely to die than others. Adepoju ask, “A baby that was born at home without medical interference, [could] more likely [to die] than others?” Dr. Kumar acknowledge “the risk is there” more so than babies born in NICU or nursery care.
Adepoju also tried to highlight how the mother having conditions could have affected the baby’s kidney health. Prosecutors followed Dr. Kumar’s testimony with an expert witness in pediatrics and child abuse to testify to the boy’s injuries.
“This child’s profound anemia could lead to kidney injury because there’s just not enough blood volume to support body processes,” Dr. Shanlon Nienow testified. “There was also a concern regarding potential dehydration based upon the lack of fluids this child had, which can also lead to kidney injury.”
“Hypothermia and anemia are not known consequences of a typical birth,” Dr. Nienow said. “[The boy’s condition was] definitely an inflicted situation, especially with regard to the hypothermia and the kidney injury, and at least partially the anemia.”
Prosecutors are expected to call at least three more witnesses Thursday. Avila’s defense begin its arguments by Thursday afternoon.
Prosecutors presented video evidence Tuesday showing Avila tossing the baby into the dumpster. While prosecutors emphasized the strength of the evidence in opening statement, defense attorneys are expected to argue that prosecutors have mischarged the case.
Fifth Judicial District Judge William Shoobridge is overseeing the case in a Lovington, New Mexico courtroom. The prosecution team includes 5th Judicial District Attorney Dianna Luce along with Alyssa Cervantes and Mark Probasco of the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office.
Avila’s defense team includes attorneys Ibukun Adepoju, Raymond Conley and Tashika Curlee.