Trial underway for Greeley dad accused of child abuse in 2015 death of 4-month-old son
GREELEY — A 4-month-old boy might be alive today if his father provided him with the obvious medical care he needed, a Weld County prosecutor said Tuesday during opening statements in the trial of Nathan Archuleta.
Archuleta, 34, is the third and final member of his family to stand trial in the August 2015 death of his son, Donovan, who was just 131 days old. Archuleta is charged with one count of child abuse knowingly and recklessly causing death, a Class 2 felony punishable by up to 24 years in prison.
The night of Aug. 2, 2015, Greeley police responded to a report of child who was not breathing at an apartment in the 2800 block of 28th Street. When officers arrived, they found a baby with what looked like chemical burns to his face, bruises on his body, pinch marks caused by tweezers, broken ribs and a torn frenulum, the piece of skin that connects lips and the tongue to the gums. A medical examiner would later deem the boy also suffered from pneumonia, kidney failure and dehydration, and died from sepsis, or the presence of harmful bacteria in his body.
“It should have been obvious to anyone observing this child he needed help; he needed medical attention,” Wrenn said. “If Donovan had gotten the care he needed, he would have survived, but Nathan Archuleta did nothing that week to help his son.”
Archuleta’s attorney, Keith Coleman of Greeley, responded with a simple counter argument; his client didn’t know baby Donovan was in such dire shape.
At the time of Donovan’s death, Archuleta worked the swing shift at the Walmart Distribution Center, clocking in at 2 or 3 p.m. and working into the night. He came home late and slept in most mornings, Coleman said.
Archuleta never fed Donovan. He never bathed, clothed or changed a diaper. He wasn’t even sure if the boy was his biological son. He trusted his mother, Sandy, 56, and Donovan’s mother, Angelica Chavez, 32, to care for the boy, Coleman said.
“He didn’t know,” Coleman said. “He really, honestly didn’t know Donovan was in as bad of shape as he was.
“One thing is clear, he never took care of that child. You’re also not going to hear any evidence that Mr. Archuleta caused any of those injuries.”
Archuleta pleaded not guilty in August 2017 by reason of impaired mental condition. Coleman noted at one point Tuesday Archuleta was in special education growing up.
Chavez was the first to go to trial and was convicted in March 2017 of child abuse causing death. She is serving an eight-year prison sentence.
Nathan Archuleta’s trial is scheduled for seven days.
— Joe Moylan covers crime and public safety for The Greeley Tribune. Reach him at email@example.com, (970) 392-4467 or on Twitter @JoeMoylan.