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Couple Accused in Iowa City Toddler Death to Be Tried Separately

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IOWA CITY, Iowa - The Iowa City mother and boyfriend accused in the April death of her 20-month-old son will be tried separately, a Johnson County judge ruled Friday.

Mireya Balderas, 18, and Jorge Perez, 21, originally were scheduled to be tried together on charges of child endangerment resulting in death. Both cases were set for trial Dec. 11, although Balderas was the first to waive her right to speedy trial, and she asked the county attorney's office in July for an explanation of the charges filed against her.

In that request, Balderas' attorney indicated she wanted the cases to be considered separately, asking why Balderas faced child endangerment charges if they had evidence Perez told police, "It's all my fault."

"Ms. Balderas was not present. The child died at the hospital before Ms. Balderas arrived. Mr. Perez told the police, 'It's all my fault,'" according to the motion.

Balderas filed a motion for a separate trial earlier this month, and a judge granted that motion Friday. A trial setting conference for both Balderas and Perez is scheduled for Nov. 28.

Perez and Balderas were arrested June 10, weeks after Marcus Balderas died of blunt force injuries to the head on April 30. His death was ruled a homicide.

Perez faces two charges of child endangerment resulting in death in connection with what investigators call a series of assaults they believe led to the toddler's death and to the injuries that authorities say took his life.

Balderas faces one charge of child endangerment resulting in death for allegedly participating in the abuse that took her son's life and failing to protect the child from Perez.

The Iowa Department of Human Services was called to the home that Perez and Balderas shared at 2018 Waterfront Drive on April 25 on a report that Perez had left Marcus alone. A DHS worker noticed bruising on the child's face at that time but didn't think it was unusual for a toddler, authorities said.

Five days later, Iowa City police were called to the home for a child struggling to breathe. When they arrived, they found Marcus in distress and vomiting, according to court documents. Police reported that paramedics noticed bruising on Marcus' face, and the child was rushed to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, where he was pronounced dead.

Investigators reported that Perez admitted to hitting Marcus in the face, holding a pillow over his head, stepping on his stomach and throwing him up without catching him. Balderas reportedly admitted to hitting her son in the face, holding a pillow over his head to get him to sleep and watching her boyfriend abuse the boy, according to authorities.

Perez and Balderas, if convicted, could face up to 50 years in prison for each charge.

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