Juan Aguilar

Booking photo for Juan Aguilar (Orange County District Attorney)

A Santa Ana man accused of beating an 18-month-old girl to death will go on trial for murder Monday in Orange County.

Prosecutors say Juan Carlos Aguilar, 27, was left alone with the 18-month-old daughter of his girlfriend’s sister for about two hours when he assaulted the child, squeezing her ribcage with his hands and leaving her with bruises and cuts on her body and face and internal injuries to her lungs, liver and brain.  

When Aguilar’s girlfriend returned home and found the child limp and struggling to breath, Aguilar told her not to call police, prosecutors said.

Instead, the two allegedly drove the girl to her mother who was working at a Newport Beach hotel.

When they finally took her to a hospital, the child was barely breathing and had only a slight pulse, prosecutors said. Megan Rodriguez was pronounced dead 15 minutes later.

During an investigation prosecutors learned that two years earlier, Aguilar had allegedly assaulted a relative who was just a few months old in a similar way. The child survived the attack but her rib cage was fractured.

Aguilar is charged with murder, assault and child abuse.

If convicted in the 2011 incident, he faces a maximum sentence of 31 years to life in state prison.

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Paloma.Esquivel@latimes.com