Christopher Thunborg

AMERICAN FORK — A man charged with the death of his girlfriend's baby will go to trial in December, grieving for the baby but still maintaining his innocence.

Christopher Thunborg, 22, waived his preliminary hearing Friday afternoon in 4th District Court, pleaded not guilty and asked for a five-day jury trial.

Thunborg was arrested March 12 after he called 911 to report his girlfriend's baby wasn't breathing. He had been tending 13-month-old Austin Pettersson while the baby's mom , Whitney Pettersson, was working a graveyard shift.

When emergency crews arrived, they rushed the baby to Utah Valley Regional Medical Center where he was pronounced dead, according to Orem police.

Thunborg told police he had been holding Austin and had tripped and fell onto several hard toys. He also maintained that he never hit Austin to discipline him.

However, police were concerned about suspicious bruising on the baby's stomach and back. Thunborg said he does not know how the bruises got there.

An autopsy showed the child's stomach had been lacerated and he had sub-cranial bleeding, which would most likely be caused by blunt-force trauma, according to the affidavit of probable cause filed in 4th District Court.

The five-day trial was set to begin Dec. 8, although both sides acknowledged open, ongoing communication regarding a resolution.

"It's a very difficult situation," said Thunborg's defense attorney, Dusty Kawai. "He maintains his innocence but feels terrible for Austin's death; he's mourning for Austin's death."

Thunborg appeared in court with his parents. He was bailed out of jail on the condition that he wear an GPS ankle monitor, Kawai said.

Part of the decision to waive, or forgo, a preliminary hearing was to avoid dragging out painful details.

"We really want to help all parties heal," Kawai said. "It seems like a prelim would serve to 'stir the pot' more than accomplish anything productive. If we do have to take this to trial, we only want to struggle through that once."

Prosecutor Doug Finch said a case like this is especially difficult because the most serious charge for a child's death is a second-degree felony of child abuse homicide, which is "so far past" any other second-degree felony, he said. "It's really really hard to do justice to the family," Finch said. "(The mother) is devastated; the (biological) father of the child is devastated."


E-mail: sisraelsen@desnews.com