BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — UPDATE: The jury is currently deliberating the case against Mauricio Torres.
Court got underway shortly after 8:30 a.m. in the capital murder trial of Mauricio Torres on Tuesday, March 3, at the Benton County Courthouse. Less than seven hours later, court was done for the day with the defense resting their case.
This case is a retrial for Torres who had his first capital murder conviction, and death sentence, overturned by the Arkansas Supreme Court in April 2019.
Former Bella Vista residents Mauricio, 50, and his wife, Cathy, 48, both testified about the March 2015 death of their biological son, six-year-old Isaiah.
Cathy was transferred to the Benton County Detention Center from the Arkansas Department of Corrections McPherson Unit in Newport. That’s about 100 miles from Little Rock. She’s serving life in prison with no parole.
Cathy, donned prison garb and the bailiff removed her handcuffs once she stepped up to the stand. Her husband Mauricio did not look at her.
Defense attorney Bill James recapped a bit of Cathy’s background: She was born in Missouri, raised in Jonesboro, Arkansas, attended college and studied business computer operations. The couple met in Jonesboro, Arkansas, and married in 2002. They later relocated to Northwest Arkansas.
James repeatedly asked Cathy about what happened on the camping weekend of March 28-29 in Missouri.
The mom of three of Mauricio’s biological children gave vague answers and made no mention of any type of abuse made against Isaiah. Cathy did not make any mention that Isaiah was forced to do squats with a stick shoved up his rectum.
She did remember the child later said, “his stomach hurt” and that he went to the bathroom while at the campsite. “[I went to the store] got Pepto Bismol, gave it to him and he went outside to play,” she said. Cathy’s answers to questions by the attorneys — prosecution and defense — about egregious abuse toward Isaiah consisted of “I don’t remember” for nearly a total of a dozen times.
Cathy told defense attorney Bill James that “she tries to forget the past.” She said she took the plea deal of life in prison/no parole because “[I] wouldn’t get a fair trial.”
Mauricio was more animated on the stand while explaining his son’s death. He told jurors while answering questions by Benton County Prosecutor Nathan Smith, that today he told the truth, and that prior testimony [given in 2015 to police] was not accurate.
Smith gave several examples of Mauricio’s “version” of how Isaiah was murdered.
“Didn’t know, didn’t remember,” Smith said to Mauricio, “You said something today that you’re never said before … that your [then] seven-year-old participated in the act [of son’s murder].”
Smith also drove home that Mauricio ripped out his son’s teeth with pliers. “Yes, I did … [they were milk teeth] because they were loose … I didn’t rip them out with malice,” said the child’s dad. Smith responded, “that’s why you used pliers.”
The defense, as with Cathy, had Mauricio give some of this background. The El Salvadoran immigrated in 1980 to the U.S. and lived in California. He had family members who were in the fast-food business there. By his 20s he decided to split from the family. He earned an associate’s degree in occupational therapy with the hope of completing a graduate degree. He moved to Arkansas because of work opportunities.
Mauricio told the prosecutor that he did not murder his son. He reiterated that today he told the truth. “I’m already going down. If you’re going to kill me, kill me with the truth.”
Smith told Torres, “today’s story is ridiculous.”
Both husband and wife denied that their child slept in a garbage can or a dog cage, something their daughter told jurors on Monday had happened. Neither could exactly detail how a huge red scar, from a chemical burn, was on the child’s back. They did agree, however, that Isaiah was “disciplined.”
Toward the end of testifying, Mauricio said, “the whole truth is ugly, horrible, horrific sick … [but] it’s the truth before God.”
Closing arguments are Wednesday, March 4, at 8:30 a.m.