More than 12 years after he was charged with his infant daughter's death, prosecutors dropped murder charges against an Aurora man Friday.
Bernardo Beltran, 44, was charged with murder and involuntary manslaughter in 1996 for allegedly shaking his 5-month-old daughter, Yasmine, to death.
But Beltran went missing shortly after he talked to police at the hospital on the night the baby died. He was not noticed by authorities again until November 2008, when Beltran was arrested while walking to a bar near the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas.
On Friday, prosecutors were forced to drop the charges because they could not provide evidence that anyone ever had made an effort to notify Beltran that he had been charged with the baby's murder. An arrest warrant said Beltran should be taken into custody "without unnecessary delay," but 12 years passed. Prosecutors believe that Beltran was in Mexico during all or part of that time.
Defense attorney Kathleen Colton argued that because there are no records that police made an effort to serve the warrant either in the U.S. or Mexico, they violated Beltran's rights to a speedy trial. If Beltran was not aware he had been charged with murder, and no effort was made to arrest him, he would not have been avoiding prosecution, Colton argued.
Kane County State's Attorney John Barsanti said there are no records showing that police tried to serve the warrant. He contacted officers who worked on the case and none of them could remember attempting to serve a warrant.
"I cannot prove that anybody went and looked for this guy," Barsanti said.
Barsanti now has 160 days from the time Beltran was taken into custody to prove that Beltran fled to avoid prosecution or there were efforts to make him aware of the charges. Barsanti said anyone with information can call his office at 630-232-3500.
Detectives originally questioned Beltran in 1996 after he took the baby to Provena Mercy Medical Center in Aurora for treatment.
Beltran claimed he was watching the child alone and was in another room when Yasmine fell, police said. An autopsy, however, indicated Yasmine died as a result of shaken-baby syndrome, police said.
Beltran was scheduled to be released from the Kane County jail Friday.