Man convicted of shaking toddler stepson to death

Sunday, May 19, 2002

WARRENSBURG, Mo. -- A Knob Noster man has been convicted in the shaking death of his toddler stepson.

Johnson County jurors on Friday found Carlos Luna Mendoza guilty of felony abuse of a child and second-degree murder in the death of 22-month-old Raven Ridgeway.

Jurors recommended life in prison on the child abuse conviction and 30 years in prison for second-degree murder. Sentencing was scheduled for June 24.

Mendoza, 24, was watching the child on June 23, 2001, while the boy's mother, Michelle Fuelling, was working at Tyson Foods.

Mendoza testified that he found the boy not breathing and unresponsive, attempted to revive him, and called 911 for medical assistance.

The toddler died early on June 25, 2001, at Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, from massive brain injuries.

Public Defender Rob Fleming said the child was not hurt intentionally.

"Carlos was scared, excited, and shook the baby to rouse him. This was not an attempt to abuse, it was an attempt to revive," Fleming said.

Prosecuting Attorney Mary Ann Young said in her closing arguments that Mendoza gave several accounts of what happened on the day the boy was hurt. She said the child had experienced long and continued abuse.

Fuelling, the child's mother, was arrested later and charged with felony endangering of a child and second-degree murder. Prosecutors allege she left the boy with Mendoza, even though there were indications he might harm the boy.

Fuelling remains in jail pending a scheduled August trial.

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