Mother accused of child abuse testifies in Houston trial

bpurser@macon.comNovember 1, 2013 

PERRY -- Nashan Jalivay Pereira told jurors Friday that she couldn’t believe what a doctor told her about multiple fractures found in her infant daughter’s body last fall after a series of X-rays.

“No, that’s not right,” Pereira recalled telling the doctor at The Medical Center of Central Georgia’s Children’s Hospital. The doctor had just told her that if the fractures weren’t accidental then they were intentional. “You guys made a mistake.”

She and her husband, Johan Pereira, both 32 and technical sergeants with the 78th Logistics Readiness Squadron at Robins Air Force Base, are accused of child abuse and are on trial in Houston County Superior Court.

Johan Pereira is accused of handling their infant daughter in such a manner as to cause the fractures. Nashan Pereira is accused of failing to intervene. Their daughter, Gabriella, is 1 year old and now lives with grandparents in California.

The multiple fractures were detected following a series of X-rays in November 2012 after the mother sought medical treatment for the infant after she noticed the child’s foot was swollen. Gabriella was about 3 months old at the time.

Nashan Pereira testified she at first thought the doctors had the wrong X-rays. She repeatedly took her daughter to the doctor’s office at the slightest concern of an ailment. She brought the infant in that November because of the swollen foot. She told jurors she insisted they check a finger that was still swollen even after an earlier visit to a Warner Robins clinic.

Pereira told jurors she and her husband doted on their infant daughter. They constantly took photographs and videos of nearly every move she made.

Both took paternity leave. Her husband was home alone with their daughter the last few weeks before the hospital visit that led to the charges against them. She told jurors she had to return to work. But he was faithful to snap photographs throughout the day and send them to her.

Some of those photos and videos were shared with jurors during her testimony. Jurors laughed during a video in which Johan Pereira interacts with his daughter. Baby Gabriella is smiling in the photos and videos. In a couple of the photographs, the infant is wrapped around her father’s shoulders. In one, she’s chewing on his ear, and he is grinning broadly.

Nashan Pereira described her husband as a loving father and their child as, “Daddy’s girl.”

She also told jurors about the fertility shots and a surgery she had to have for the couple to conceive Gabriella. She said the baby never shied or pulled away from her father but delighted in his presence.

Pereira often cried through her testimony as did her husband.

Her mother, Victoria Jalivay, testified both her daughter and son-in-law handled their baby with extra care.

“They handled her like a piece of glass,” she told jurors. “I told them she wouldn’t break.”

Victoria Jalivay also relayed a story to jurors about witnessing her daughter start to cry because she was upset Gabriella was crying.

“Oh Lord, you can tell this is her first baby,” Jalivay recalled thinking. Some jurors laughed and smiled at the remark.

She also told jurors she would not stand for either to have hurt Gabriella.

“I would have no problem putting either one of them in jail if they harmed that baby,” Jalivay told jurors.

The couple’s leasing agent at their apartment, a close friend who works on base and others also testified Friday that Johan Pereira was always loving and gentle with the baby when they witnessed interaction between them.

Johan Pereira did not take the witness stand. He is not required to testify, with the burden of proof on the prosecution.

The defense rested at the end of the day. Closing arguments from prosecution and defense attorneys are expected Monday morning when the trial resumes before Judge Katherine K. Lumsden.

The weeklong trial has been marked by conflicting testimony from medical experts who split on whether most of the fractures were indicative of child abuse or underlying metabolic disorders such as rickets, a softening and weakening of the bones due to a lack of vitamin D, calcium or phosphate, or a brittle-bone disease known as osteogenesis imperfecta.

Some of the medical experts testified by Skype, a free service that allows users to talk over the Internet using a microphone and webcam. Numerous X-rays and medical records were introduced as exhibits during the trial.

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service