Photographs displayed during a Thursday court hearing showed where Justice Rees’ life ended: first, a murky slough, heavy with overgrown trees, thickets and brush. Then another, taken from deep in the brush, where his lifeless body lay, clad in a onesie and a diaper. Justice’s grandparents fled the courtroom at the sight, as their daughter, Justice’s mother, Samantha Lee Green, sobbed beside her attorneys.
Green, drug-addled and disoriented, had no intent of killing her infant son, her attorneys argued, as Justice’s photo projected on a screen beside her.
“There is no evidence of any physical infliction of harm. … What we have here is an act of involuntary manslaughter, no more, no less,” said Yolo County Deputy Public Defender Dave Muller, arguing Green fought through heavy brush and swam across the slough to find help for her son.
Prosecutors argued that by putting her child in harm’s way, Green’s actions rose to a murder charge.
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“He was crying all night, communicating to her, ‘Help me. I’m cold,’ ” said prosecuting Deputy District Attorney Ryan Couzens on Thursday. “She had no business out there in the first place. She left him out there in the mud.”
After four days of testimony at the Woodland woman’s preliminary hearing, a Yolo Superior Court judge decided Green will stand trial on suspicion of second-degree murder and felony child endangerment in the death of her 19-day-old son, found Feb. 25 in a remote slough near Knights Landing.
“This case is about a vulnerable, defenseless 19-day-old baby,” Judge David Rosenberg said, adding Green “violated the basic responsibility of a parent” by taking the baby to the slough where he later died.
Green will be arraigned for trial Nov. 20, Rosenberg ordered.
According to testimony Thursday, Green, 25, and Frank Rees, her fiancé and father of Justice, argued at a Woodland gas station Feb. 24 over meeting an acquaintance of Rees’ for sex. Green did not want to meet the woman, and Rees left alone for Knights Landing. Green returned to their Woodland home, picked up Justice and baby formula and headed to Knights Landing to search for Rees.
In an interview following Justice’s death, Green told police that she looked for Rees on a street where she believed he was going to meet the woman before going to a nearby levee.
In an interview with detectives, Green said she went to the levee out of jealousy, frustrated that Rees didn’t try to find her, testified Yolo County detective Sgt. Dean Nyland.
“ ‘Why didn’t he come find me? He knew where I was at,’ ” Nyland said Green told investigators. “ ‘He left me out there with his son.’ ”