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Man Sentenced to Prison for Beating 1-Year-Old to Death and Trying to Pin Blame on His Wheelchair-Bound Father

Rolando Olivarez via Lee County Sheriff's Office

Rolando Olivarez via Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

A 31-year-old Florida man will spend more than a decade behind bars for beating a 1-year-old child to death in 2020.

Lee County Court Judge Robert J. Branning ordered Rolando Olivarez to serve a sentence of 15 years in a Florida Department of Corrections State Prison for killing the toddler, who died of blunt force trauma to the head, court documents reviewed by Law&Crime show.

He pleaded guilty to one count of aggravated manslaughter of a child, a first-degree felony, after reaching a deal with prosecutors to drop a charge of second-degree murder.

According to a redacted affidavit from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, deputies at approximately 3:35 p.m. on Sept. 17, 2020 responded to a 911 call seeking medical assistance for an unconscious child at a home located in the 700 block of Homer Avenue. The caller, whose name is redacted from the document, said that the child was her maternal nephew and that her fiancé, Rolando Olivarez, was performing CPR on the baby while they waited for police and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to arrive. The child’s name was also redacted.

Upon arriving at the scene, first responders observed the aunt and Olivarez as they were “changing the unresponsive victim’s diaper” in the living room.

“Multiple first responders noted that the occupants displayed a calm demeanor and none of them appeared frantic, stressed, or concerned,” the affidavit states. The couple then informed authorities that in fact they had not performed CPR on the child, whom medics said had “multiple marks and bruises” that were visible. Medics were able to stabilize the baby and transported him to Lehigh Regional Medical Center.

The medical staff at the facility told investigators that the child’s injuries included a fractured skull, subdural hematoma, bruising on his right cheek, and bruising on both ears.

Due to the severity of his condition, the victim was transported to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital (JHACH) in St. Petersburg. He was placed on a ventilator in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, where he remained in critical condition for five days before succumbing to his injuries. He was pronounced dead at approximately 2:35 p.m. on Sept. 22.

The medical staff determined that the child suffered “a fatal abusive head trauma due to high force impact to the left side of the victim’s head resulting in a skull fracture.” Additionally, the baby also had severe bruising on his head and body as well as “extensive bilateral retinal hemorrhages and a lesion on the middle of his back.”

Based on the “severity of the medical condition and observations of deputies,” Olivarez and his disabled 71-year-old father were taken to the sheriff’s headquarters “to be interviewed as to their involvement in the incident,” according to the affidavit.

Olivarez initially denied that the child sustained any kind of trauma but later changed his story and claimed that the boy “fell and struck his head on an entertainment center.” A post-mortem medical examination found that the boy could not have sustained his injuries in such a manner, police said.

Olivarez then claimed that he walked into a bedroom and found his father, Ramon Olivarez, “standing over the victim and shouting, ‘Get up’ while holding his cane.” But investigators noted that Ramon was wheelchair-bound after suffering a debilitating stroke and was likely incapable of “generating the force necessary to inflict the severe injuries suffered by the victim.” Additionally, doctors said that Ramon had recently been deemed unable to walk with a cane, which he no longer used.

The medical examiner concluded that the boy suffered a “very high force impact to the left side of his head, resulting in a skull fracture and overlying soft tissue swelling,” as well as “retinal hemorrhaging that is consistent with high force acceleration/deceleration and rotational trauma to the eyes and brain.”

Rolando Olivarez’s children later told police that he frequently struck them with his hands and other objects, and was responsible for a bite mark on the leg of his daughter in what police called a “pattern of abuse.”

Court records also show that Olivarez had previously been charged with burglary and larceny, in addition to several misdemeanor crimes.

Read the affidavit and sentencing order below:

[Images via Lee County Sheriff’s Office]

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.