BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — The Bella Vista man accused of killing his young son in 2015 relived what he told a police investigator during a taped interview about the day his son died, and he saw his now 12-year-old daughter testify about the fatal night.
Arkansas State Crime Lab Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Erickson also took the stand on Monday, March 2.
Mauricio Torres, 50, wept through some of the testimony. At other times he placed his hands over his ears and looked down at the table where he was seated and flanked by his defense team.
The capital murder/battery case is being heard at the Benton County Courthouse Annex in Bentonville. Benton County Prosecutor Nathan Smith is asking for the death sentence if Torres is found guilty of capital murder by the jury of 12 in this retrial.
In 2016, Torres was convicted and sentenced to death by the Arkansas Supreme Court but the conviction was overturned in 2019.
WARNING: DETAILS MAY BE DISTURBING FOR SOME READERS
Monday’s trial began with video testimony given by Torres to Bella Vista Police Investigator Tim Cook at the Benton County Sheriff’s Office on the afternoon of April 7, 2015. In this video, Torres claimed his wife, Cathy Torres, 48, blamed him for Isaiah’s death. In the video, Torres said the child’s death was an accident and never meant to happen. “She (Cathy) knows she’s equally guilty as I am,” said Torres. “The accident that happened was not intentional.” He said they tried multiple forms of punishment on the child but nothing worked.
Finally, as a form of punishment, the six-year-old was forced to do squats while a stick, at least four inches long, was inserted into his rectum. This act happened when the Torres’, along with their two daughters — Isaiah’s twin and oldest sister — were camping in Missouri over the weekend of March 28-29. On Sunday, Isaiah was being punished for eating cake without permission. Torres said Cathy became “mad” and pushed the child down to go up and down faster and feces came out. “Call it the final blow … she had not meant to do that,” said Torres when feces came out of Isaiah’s rectum and the child fell over.
Torres said Isaiah later told him, “I don’t feel so good, my stomach hurts,” but that he didn’t think much of what his son said because it was only feces and there wasn’t any blood.
Torres said the family thought Isaiah has a stomach ache, according to the video testimony regarding Sunday night when the family returned to their home in Bella Vista. He called 9-1-1.
The child was pronounced dead later that night at an area hospital.
The six-year-old died from internal injuries as a result of having been sodomized by a stick. Arkansas State Crime Lab Medical Examiner Dr. Stephen Erickson, who specializes in forensic pathology (a person who determines the cause of death by examining a corpse), examined Isaiah on March 31, 2015, two days after the child died. He said the cause of death was “acute peritonitis” and told jurors that he also observed acute blunt force injuries on the child calling it “chronically battered child syndrome.”
Erickson said the child had various stages of healing from blunt force injuries from his head to the top of his feet. The child appeared to have had some of his teeth — incisors — knocked or ripped out, head injuries were innumerable, facial bruising, broken nose, whip marks, and the child’s back showed scarring from a chemical burn. The doctor shaved the child’s head during the examination and that revealed the tearing of skin, fresh contusions, and scars. “Some have been done over and over at different times,” said Erickson. The jurors were shown more than a dozen post-mortem photos of the child and Erickson said, “pictures speak for themselves.”
Now 12, the Torres’ oldest daughter took the stand. The near-teen walked into the courtroom, wearing a sleeveless plum-colored dress, sandal-like shoes and her long dark hair swept across each shoulder. She answered questions for both the prosecution and the defense.
This was the first time the father-daughter had seen each other since Isaiah’s death.
When asked how she would like to call Mauricio and Cathy she answered, “my biological parents.”
Most of the child’s answers were consistent with her testimony given in the 2015 trial.
The defense did bring up that she added details about the night of Isaiah’s death, but she said that her testimony was the truth about what she remembered.
These are some of the details the seventh-grader told jurors:
- Isaiah was treated differently
- He ate his meal of beans and rice at least twice a week while facing the wall; the girls ate different food
- He slept in a locked dog cage
- She was told to bite his ankle if he tried to get out of the cage
- Lived in a trash can in the house for about a month
- Forced to eat excrement, from their pet cat or drink the dad’s urine
- Beat him with shoes, cables, sticks
- Yanked his teeth out with pliers
The child told jurors she was told to beat her brother and did so because if she did not she feared getting punished.
She said the happiest she had seen her little brother was in 2014 when he stayed at a Little Rock hospital and was being treated for (chemical) burns. “He had a bed and food,” she said.
Late in the day, the defense asked for several motions of “directed verdict.” Benton County Circuit Court Judge Brad Karren denied all the motions, which included reducing the charge to negligent homicide, manslaughter, murder in the second degree. Defense Attorney Jeff Rosenzweig also asked for the first-degree battery charge to be reduced to second-degree. Again, denied by Judge Karren.
Court begins again on Tuesday, March 3, at 8:30. Both Cathy and Mauricio are expected to testify.