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Fresno man on trial for murder of 2-year-old testifies he tried to save child’s life

The Fresno man charged in the gruesome death of 2-year-old Xander Villalobos testified Tuesday that he tried to save the child’s life when he realized he was injured.

Aaron Moton, 24, is on trial for the death of the fun-loving child who was struck so severely in his abdomen that it caused his liver to split apart, a forensic pathologist testified.

Moton has denied harming the child of his ex-girlfriend, Nikkey Rojas. Early on in the investigation, Rojas was considered a suspect but was later cleared by detectives.

Moton and Rojas were the only ones with Xander when he was killed inside the couple’s apartment in west-central Fresno on Oct. 5, 2021.

Testifying for the first time in his trial, the slim-looking Moton said he willingly took on child-care duties when he moved into Rojas’s apartment in April 2021. Rojas had two children, Xander and an older sister, who also spent time with her biological father.

Under questioning by his attorney Scott Kinney, Moton said he grew close to Xander and would take him to the lake and birthday parties along with playing with him in the apartment.

Kinney asked Moton if he ever bruised Xander. Moton replied no. Did anyone ever accuse him of hurting Xander? Moton said no.

How did he discipline Xander? Moton said he would give the boy a “time out” and sit him on the sofa.

Did he ever notice bruises on Xander? Moton said he saw bruises on the child’s back, but said they most likely came from rough housing with his older sister and cousins.

The day Xander Villalobos died

The day of the child’s death, Moton said everything appeared normal. He had come home about 7 a.m. from his graveyard shift at a fruit-processing plant. He showered, went to bed and woke up about 1 p.m. When he got up, he saw Xander in his high chair eating cereal and the child’s mother in the kitchen looking at her phone.

A short time later, Xander’s mother took him out of the high chair, changed his diaper and then sat him in front of the television with some of his toys. She went to pick out the child’s clothes and when she returned, Xander needed his diaper changed again. This time, Moton testified that he changed the diaper and noticed it was runny and was a dark color. He said he asked Rojas about it, and she said it was just diarrhea.

At that moment, Moton said, Rojas’s sister came by to drop off Xander’s shoes that were left at her nearby apartment. As Rojas went to retrieve the shoes, Moton sat the child in front of the television while he went to the bathroom to brush his teeth and comb his hair.

Moton testified that he heard Rojas return and when he came out of the bathroom a few minutes later he went to put Xander’s shoes on. But the child looked strange.

“He was like limp; he was out of it and his eyes were closed,” Moton said. “I lifted him up, but his head went back and he couldn’t stand.”

Rojas, who was in the kitchen, saw Xander having problems and asked Moton what was wrong with him. He testified that she took her son in her arms, looked at him and yelled, “wake up.”

Panicked, Rojas called her sister who told her to call 911 right away. She did and emergency help soon arrived.

Moton testified that he tried to revive the child by giving him two chest compressions and two breaths in Xander’s mouth. He also told his attorney that he shook the child to try and revive him. It appeared to work, he said.

“He popped his eyes open and hugged me tight and then he went back to being limp,” Moton testified.

Prosecution questions defendant

Prosecutor Amy Cobb questioned Moton about his alleged life-saving efforts. During Rojas’s testimony last week, she never mentioned anything about Moton doing CPR on the child.

Cobb also asked Moton why he didn’t say anything to police about shaking Xander. Was he concerned that he might have hurt the child? Moton said yes.

Did Rojas every hurt her son. Moton said no.

“I don’t think she would ever hurt Xander,” Moton said.

Closing arguments are expected on Wednesday and the jury should begin deliberating by Wednesday afternoon.