Iowa City police consider toddler death ‘suspicious'

Cause and manner of death not yet determined; father charged with leaving child home alone

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IOWA CITY — Police consider the Monday death of a 20-month-old toddler suspicious.

The toddler, identified Wednesday as 20-month-old Marcus Kaden Balderas, reportedly had difficulty breathing about noon Monday and was transported from his home at 2018 Waterfront Drive #120 by ambulance to the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinics, where he was later pronounced dead, according to Iowa City police.

A preliminary autopsy has been conducted, although the final results aren’t yet available, and a cause and manner of death has not been confirmed.

Police are, however, considering the death suspicious.

Iowa City police said they are working on the case with the help of the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation, the Iowa Department of Human Services, and the Johnson County Attorney’s Office.

A 20-year-old man who also lives at the Waterfront Drive address  was arrested Monday evening on suspicion of child endangerment without injury after police said he left Marcus alone in the house unsupervised on April 26 for up to 20 minutes.

Jorge J. Perez was brought into the Johnson County Jail after a mandatory reporter made a report to the Iowa Department of Human Resources accusing Perez of leaving his stepson home alone, according to a criminal complaint.

Iowa City police Sgt. Denise Brotherton did not confirm that police are investigating Perez in connection with the child’s death, but said Perez did live in the home with the child.

Marcus also lived with his biological mother, Brotherton said. According to Johnson County birth records, Marcus was born on Aug. 29, 2010, in Johnson County to Mireya Bianca Balderas, 18, and Jose Martin Morales Jr., 20.

At the time of Marcus’ birth, his mother would have been 16 and his father would have been 18, according to county records.

A MySpace page for Balderas is private but shows a picture of a toddler next to the words, “I (heart) my Marcus Kaden 8/29/10.”

Brotherton said she can’t confirm the relationship between Balderas and Perez, who is being held at the Johnson County Jail on the child endangerment charge in lieu of a $50,000 cash-only bond.

Jail officials Wednesday afternoon said no other charges have been added to his case.

Perez made an initial appearance Tuesday in Johnson County Court on the child endangerment charge, and a preliminary hearing in that case was set for May 11. He also was approved to have a public defender.

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