By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Baby killer among Americas Most Wanted
MARIO PENA Lathrop fugitive
America’s Most Wanted TV dragnet is on the lookout for convicted Lathrop baby killer Mario Pena, 23, who violated his bail and disappeared.

Pena was convicted by a jury in only 10 minutes of deliberation in the San Joaquin County Superior Court for the beating death of one-year-old Jacob Leon on the afternoon of February of 2008.

The child was just weeks shy of his first birthday when his mother asked Pena, her boyfriend, to watch Jacob rather than taking him to work with her.  It is reportedly unclear exactly what happened to the baby, but Pena claimed that he might have hit his head on the bathtub faucet while he ws trying to bathe him.  He told officers the baby stopped breathing.

Officers reported that instead of immediately calling for help, Pena first changed his clothes and dressed Jacob before dialing 911.  San Joaquin County deputies and the medical examiner concluded that Jacob’s death wasn’t simply from a simple bump on the head – rather he had been beaten to death.

San Joaquin County prosecuting attorney Angela Hayes was so outraged, according to America’s Most Wanted, that she was compelled to witness her first autopsy.  The experience of seeing Jacob’s severe injuries ignited a personal passion for justice.

Pena was arrested and went to trial, but after the jury selection and the beginning of the trial he no longer showed up for the court sessions and disappeared possibly across the southern border.

It is believed that because the prosecutor’s arguments were so compelling the jury only took the 10 minutes to convict Pena of child abuse and murder in his absence.  Those charges carry a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.

Pena is of Hispanic decent standing 5-foot-9, weighing 180 pounds with brown eyes and brown hair.  He was last seen in Lathrop, but is believed to be in either Southern California or Mexico.

Anyone with knowledge of Pena’s location is urged to call the America’s Most Wanted hotline at 1-800-Crime-TV. They can remain anonymous.  Callers may also contact the South County Crime Stoppers at 823-4636 and receive up to $1,000 for information leading to Pena’s arrest.  Callers remain anonymous using only a number system to be identified for their cash reward.