A domestic violence case could lead to an attempted capital murder charge against a Corpus Christi, Michael Sotelo. His alleged victim is his ex-girlfriend’s unborn child.
A case like this is rare, but there is legal precedent for a charge like this.
Sotelo’s ex-girlfriend says when she told him she was pregnant with his child he knocked her unconscious. That is according to an arrest affidavit. She told police that Sotelo "continued to stomp on her stomach and chest stating he didn’t want her kid."
Sotelo is now accused of attempting to kill that unborn baby.
First Assistant District Attorney Matt Manning says cases involving children in the womb are rare.
"They’re definitely not as prevalent," Manning said.
The District Attorney’s Office has no comment on Sotelo’s case.
However, Manning says under Texas Penal Code, a fetus is considered a person just like anyone else.
"Any offense where a fetus is a victim, that case can be prosecuted as though it were a person who is an adult, or any other person," he said.
Manning adds that the DA’s Office builds a case involving a fetus the same way they would prosecute any other case: by proving loss of life, or calling on witnesses and medical experts to prove serious bodily injury.
"Through medical records, or through the testimony of a physician or some other medical professional," Manning said.
In its history the Nueces County District Attorney’s Office has prosecuted at least one case involving injury to an unborn baby.
That was an intoxication manslaughter case in 1997. It resulted in a conviction.
However unlike that incident, Sotelo’s case is a domestic violence case. Manning says a Capital Murder charge carries much stiffer penalties than manslaughter.
"Both involve a person who’s life is lost, but the primary difference is one involves a mental state where the person intentionally and knowingly committed this act," he said.
No information is being released on the condition of the unborn child, but if the child were to die Sotelo could face a capital murder charge.
Sotelo’s case is also the first major domestic violence case to come up since the DA’s office created its new domestic violence task force.
Manning says the prosecutors on that task force have expertise that could help with a case involving an unborn child, but that medical experts would also need to weigh in.