Farmington man accused of child abuse in drowning death of his toddler son

Attorney says drowning of toddler was an accident

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
Jaden Ortega
  • Jaden Ortega, 20, is accused of a first-degree felony count of child abuse in the drowning death of his son Santo Ortega.
  • Shane Goranson, Jaden’s attorney, said in a statement that his client is devastated by the death of his son.
  • Jaden has been incarcerated at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center since Feb. 5 for a probation violation in a separate case.

FARMINGTON — A Farmington man is accused of felony child abuse for allegedly leaving his 1-year-old boy unattended in a bathtub, which led to the child drowning as the defendant was asleep in another room.

The defendant’s attorney calls the incident an accident and said the father is devastated by the loss of his child.

Jaden Ortega, 20, is accused of a first-degree felony count of child abuse in the drowning death of his son Santo Ortega on Feb. 4 at a residence in the 300 block of East 18th Street in Farmington, according to court documents.

Shane Goranson, Jaden’s attorney, said in a statement that his client deserves not to be judged prematurely..

“Of course when we lose a precious child, we all look for someone to blame. That’s human nature. But accidents absolutely happen,” Goranson said. “It’s crucial we give this case the time in court for the truth to be told.”

The charging documents, including a nine-page arrest warrant affidavit, were filed on March 10 in Farmington Magistrate Court.

Farmington police were dispatched around 12:23 p.m. on Feb. 4 to the residence on reports of a possible drowning.

Multiple people, including Jaden, performed CPR on Santo before paramedics arrived.

Santo was transported to the San Juan Regional Medical Center, where he was later pronounced dead.

A pathologist for the New Mexico Office of the Medical Investigator on Feb. 5 told a detective he believed there were no indications that Santo's death was related to anything other than a drowning. 

The toddler’s mother was interviewed by investigators at the Farmington Police Department.

She told police a relative watched Santo on the night of Feb. 3, and the toddler was dropped off at the East 18th Street residence around 7 a.m. on Feb. 4.

A few hours later, the mother drew the toddler a bath, then called another relative in order to go pick up her car, which had been left elsewhere.

Santo was placed in the bathtub with the water running when the relative arrived to give the mother a ride to her car.

She had placed a blue cup with several small holes in it over the drain, which allowed the bathtub to drain while the water was running.

The mother told Jaden to get out of bed because she was leaving, and the toddler was already in the bathtub.

The mother was gone for about an hour and found Santo face down in the tub when she returned to the residence.

Jaden was extremely upset and cursing as investigators began to interview him at the Farmington Police Department.

The defendant said he was awake but in bed when Santo’s mother left to get the vehicle.

Jaden told police that while Santo was in the bathtub that morning, he left the child unattended three times, according to court documents. 

Jaden added the second time he left the child unattended, it was for about ten minutes but he had turned off the water. He believed the water was about seven to nine inches deep. 

It was when the defendant allegedly left the child unattended a third time that he went back to bed and fell asleep.

Jaden said when he woke up, he heard Santo’s mother screaming at him after the toddler was found in the bathtub.

When asked if he normally left his child unattended in the bathtub while he was in another room, Jaden said that it was normal and that 10 minutes was the longest period of time Santo had been left unattended, according to court documents.

The detective noted in the affidavit that Jaden’s answer suggested a pattern of neglect.

The water level of the bathtub was measured by a detective at about 9.5 inches deep.

Jaden has been incarcerated at the San Juan County Adult Detention Center since Feb. 5 for a probation violation in a separate case.

Jaden’s preliminary hearing is set for the morning of March 31 in Farmington Magistrate Court.

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

Support local journalism with a digital subscription: http://bit.ly/2I6TU0e