Delilah Cassio-Molina was just 19-months-old when she was brought to Marian Regional Medical Center in Santa Maria, a coastal city in in the Southern California wine country of Santa Barbara County. The little girl was brought to the hospital by her mother, at about noon on June 26, suffering from some sort of head injury that authorities have not yet publicly described.
But, according to a report on KEYT-TV News, the head trauma the little girl endured was severe — so severe that two days after she was admitted to the hospital and then transported by helicopter to Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera, California, Delilah Cassio-Molina was declared brain-dead.
Not long after that, her life-support systems were removed and the child passed away.
— SB Independent (@SBIndpndnt) July 1, 2016
Valley Children’s hospital is also the site of The Guilds of Valley Children’s Hospital Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Center, indicating that even though the girl’s mom offered a different explanation for her daughter’s fatal injury, doctors immediately determined that Delilah was a victim of child abuse.
The nature of the injury to the child was “inconsistent with the mother’s explanation of how the injury occurred,” according to a statement by Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Kelly Hoover.
Police first arrested Delilah’s 21-year-old mother, Jackeline Molina-Rodriguez of Oceania, California, on a charge of child endangerment, but soon decided not to press the charge against her. She was then released from custody, according a report by the Santa Barbara Independent newspaper.
The news report in the following KEYT-TV video contains more details on the shocking and heartbreaking death of Delilah Cassio-Molina.
The sheriff’s office has remained tight-lipped about the case.
“The Sheriff’s Coroner’s Office is in the process of conducting a death investigation and an official cause and manner of death has not yet been determined,” the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office said in a prepared release. “Due to the active investigation, no additional details will be released at this time.”
But even when the sheriff released that cryptic statement on Friday, they already had a suspect in custody and charged him with murder.
That suspect is 24-year-old Sean Michael Kothe of Orcutt, California, who is reportedly the “boyfriend” of the deceased child’s mom. Police said that Delilah had most recently been living in Orcutt, though they did not specify whether the child was actually living in Kothe’s home.
When they first arrested Kothe, detectives charged him only with possession of drug paraphernalia, specifically syringes, and being under the influence of a controlled substance.
But after they interviewed family members of Delilah Cassio-Molina and investigating further, prosecutors added charges of assault on a child causing death — and murder.
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The arrest of Kothe at his home in Orcutt sent shockwaves through the quiet neighborhood in the small, Santa Maria Valley wine country town. According to KEYT-TV, neighbors remembered Kothe as a “well-behaved baseball player.”
“He’s always been polite, always says hello,” remembered family friend Robert Bonilla. “His dad and I grew up together and our kids played baseball together and watched Sean play.”
“It’s really disgusting that kind of stuff happens here in our community and I’m really hoping that the District Attorney’s office prosecutes this to the fullest extent of the law for whoever is responsible,” another neighbor, Patrick Youngern, told the TV station.
Sean Kothe was arraigned in Santa Maria Superior Court on Wednesday, June 29 — one day after the death of Delilah Cassio-Molina — and he pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. He continues to be held in custody on $1 million bail, and is due to appear in court next on July 13.
[Photos via Facebook / Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office]