September 11th, 2010
The man police say bounced a 4-year-old boy off a wall baseboard and then tried to cover the act up this past Sept. 10 was indicted Friday on capital murder charges. 25th Judicial District Attorney Heather Miller-Hollub's office Monday released a report that said the grand jury handed up a capital murder indictment against Michael J. Menchaca in the death of Jesse Wohl. If proved at trial, capital murder is punishable by lethal injection or by life in prison without parole. Menchaca, 29, originally arrested one day after he brought Wohl into the Guadalupe Regional Medical Center's emergency department claiming he'd been injured in the shower, was booked on allegations of murder and evidence tampering for reportedly cleaning up the scene before leaving the boy's home in the 700 block of Boenig Street to seek treatment for his injuries. Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Darrell Hunter set bail at $1,050,000, and Menchaca has been held ever since in Guadalupe County Jail. Police were called to GRMC at about 1 p.m. after hospital officials noted the boy's injuries. Wohl was not breathing on his own and had no pulse when he arrived at GRMC, and officials flew him to University Hospital after restarting his heart and respiration. Wohl died the following morning after hospital officials shut off life-support equipment. According to a court document prepared by Seguin Police Detective Sgt. Aaron Seidenberger, Menchaca "intentionally and knowingly" caused Wohl's death by "swinging the child by his feet and striking the child against a wall baseboard." The detective and Texas Ranger Joey Evans questioned Menchaca and that was when he offered the shower story, saying he'd initially found the boy lying on the floor of the shower with his head on the bottom shower ledge. But that story only emerged after much questioning and confrontation by investigators when the original story reportedly told by Menchaca didn't match evidence collected at the scene. "The child's injuries consisted of an injury to the back of the child's head and internal brain hemorrhaging," Seidenberger wrote. "A large bruise to the right shoulder area, a large bruise on the left ear, a 2mm cut behind the left ear, bruising to the inner thighs and a large bruise on his abdomen. The initial diagnosis was non-accidental injury." Menchaca told police he'd taken the boy to the shower just after noon and shortly after leaving him there, checked when he heard the boy crying to find he'd fallen. The suspect told police he saw a small amount of blood coming from the back of the boy's head, but that Wohl otherwise appeared fine. Menchaca said he left the child in the shower and returned after hearing him fall again to find him unconscious on the floor. He said he'd brought the boy into the bedroom and attempted to revive him by shaking him and yelling at him, and when that didn't work, taking him back to the shower and running cold water on him, Seidenberger wrote. "Michael stated that at this time he noticed the child was not breathing and tried performing CPR and rescue breathing for approximately five minutes," Seidenberger said. He then called the boy's mother, Stephanie Wohl, put dry clothes on the boy, wrapped him in a towel and took him to the hospital, Seidenberger wrote. Detectives who searched the Boenig Street home found evidence at the scene that was not consistent with the story Menchaca had told investigators - and that suggested the crime scene had been altered by Menchaca, who was reportedly home alone with the boy at the time of the incident. The boy's clothing had been rinsed of blood, and washed blood smears were found on a mattress along with a large amount of water on the floor in the child's room, Seidenberger said. "The evidence suggested that Michael had attempted to clean up the crime scene," Seidenberger wrote. Menchaca said he initiated CPR, and attempted to revive him, Seidenberger wrote. He wrapped the boy in a towel and took him to the hospital. Seidenberger and Evans confronted Menchaca about discrepancies between his story, the injuries and the available evidence, the detective wrote. That was when a new story reportedly emerged. "Michael then admitted that he had previously lied about what had occurred and then stated that he had been playing with the child and swinging the child by its feet in a playful manner and then the child hit a baseboard by the kitchen door sustaining injuries to the head and to the shoulder," Seidenberger wrote. Seidenberger and Evans confronted Menchaca again - this time about additional injuries to Wohl's buttocks, thighs and abdomen, the detective wrote. "Michael said that the bruising to the child's abdomen was caused by him performing CPR," Seidenberger wrote. "However, he could not explain the additional injuries. Michael admitted that he had used the child's clothing to clean up the blood from the mattress and floor area in the child's room."