Marie Eristhene was taking a break during her Jericho grocery store shift when a text message from her boyfriend, who was babysitting her 18-month-old son, put her into a panic.
Lord Pardo was saying her son, Mason Robinson, had been sleeping too long and things were “not cool.”
“I shake him,” the Uniondale man also texted her on the afternoon of Oct. 11, 2015. “He doesn’t wake up.”
Now Pardo, 28, is on trial in Nassau County Court for murder and manslaughter in connection with the toddler’s death that day.
Eristhene, 24, testified Tuesday it was Pardo’s text messages starting at 1:41 p.m. that made her realize something horrible had happened. “As a mother I had a gut feeling, something had to be wrong,” she told jurors.
“I’m scared,” Pardo texted next, before repeatedly asking Eristhene — his girlfriend of several months — to call him.
After seeing the messages, the young mother used FaceTime, an iPhone video chat application, to call Pardo and tell him to bring her son to her. When Pardo answered, she saw him cradling her son in one of his arms.
“Mason’s eyes were just closed,” Eristhene told jurors, describing how she saw Pardo shaking Mason to try to rouse him without any response from the child.
Prosecutor Jessica Cepriano has told jurors that Pardo, a 225-pound man, unleashed a brutal attack on Mason, inflicting injuries that included the laceration to the 23-pound child’s liver that killed him slowly as Pardo sat by without calling 911.
But defense attorney Jeffrey Groder has said evidence in the case will point jurors to a not-guilty verdict. He said Mason fell off a bed as Pardo — a Haitian-born factory worker — was changing his diaper, and then fell out of Pardo’s arms after he picked up the boy to comfort him.
Eristhene testified Tuesday under cross-examination that Pardo routinely baby-sat Mason and she never saw a mark on her son before his death.
Eristhene’s former boss, Gavin Fitzpatrick, testified Tuesday that he saw her in a “distraught” state that day and witnessed part of her FaceTime call and then a regular call she placed to Pardo on speaker phone.
Eristhene told Pardo to call 911 and to take Mason to a hospital, Fitzpatrick said. The mother then sent a series of texts to Pardo with the same pleas.
“Call 911,” she said at 1:49 p.m. in a flurry of messages over seven minutes that included one saying, “Take him to the hospital now.”
Prosecutors say Mason was dead in his car seat when Pardo drove up to the store at about 2:20 p.m.
Eristhene, who already had called 911, testified Pardo wouldn’t answer her at first when she asked him what had happened.
Finally, she said Pardo told her just one thing: “He fell.”