BENTONVILLE, Ark. (KNWA) — The 12 jurors in Mauricio Alejandro Torres’ capital murder retrial heard opening statements from the prosecutor and defense attorney, witness testimony and viewed photos on Wednesday, February 27, at the Benton County Courthouse.
Torres, 50, who lived in Bella Vista, is being tried again on capital murder and second-degree battery in the death of his biological son Isaiah Torres, 6. The prosecutor is asking for the death sentence if Torres is found guilty.
The Arkansas Supreme Court overturned the initial conviction in 2019 and requested a new trial.
“This is a story of abuse, torture, and murder of six-year-old Isaiah … he suffered chronic child abuse syndrome,” said Benton County Prosecutor Nathan Smith.
He told jurors, “the pictures you will see are ugly, grotesque.” Smith said Isaiah had been abused for two years before his death and on March 29, 2015, on a Sunday, it ended. The child was “inflicted a death blow.”
Smith told the jurors that Torres is responsible for the child’s death — while saying this, Smith pointed his finger directly at Torres. Smith also told jurors that Torres’ wife, Cathy, is also serving life in prison no parole (LWOP) for the child’s death.
Smith explained to the jury that the Torres’ had gone on a family camping trip near Branson, Missouri. The family of five — mom, dad, Isaiah, Isaiah’s twin sister, and older sister — were all there. Smith said Torres took the child into a camper, pulled Isaiah’s pants down and pushed a stick into his rectum, emptying the contents of his rectum into his stomach. Smith said it caused peritonitis that led to an infection and then death.
“Don’t use emotion as evidence,” said attorney Bill James to the jurors. “Try your best to keep decision based on evidence/fact.” The defense also placed the blame of the child’s death on the mom, Cathy, but that Mauricio was aware of the abuse.
James told jurors they need to consider if Mauricio Torres’ conduct caused Isaiah’s death. “Show me where Mauricio Torres was aware that he was practically certain the conduct would result in death.
“Did Mauricio by his conduct cause the death of Isaiah and did he do so being aware it was certain Isaiah would die?”
“Everybody thought Isaiah had a stomach ache. The child had sepsis and it went undiagnosed. There was no proof he was dying,” James told the jurors.
James painted a picture of Mauricio Torres wanting the American dream. He immigrated from El Salvador to California at a young age, went to school, and became an occupational therapist.
He met his wife-to-be, Cathy, and they had three biological children. “Working over-time came at a price,” said James. Mauricio would only have one day off per week, that Cathy had the children most of the time and she was homeschooling them.
“He made a choice … made the wrong choice,” James said regarding his client’s decision to stay with Cathy.
Two of Isaiah’s school teachers testified and said the child’s behavior had changed from the beginning of the 2013 school year to the end of the 2014 school year.
One teacher reported to the state of possible abuse and had taken some pictures of Isaiah with bruises. The teacher said no response was received from the state regarding the allegation. The other teacher described Isaiah as “easy-going, a good kid.” But, became stubborn and moody as the year progressed.
The child, along with his siblings did not return to the school and instead were homeschooled beginning in 2015.
The other witness was a Bella Vista paramedic who responded to a 9-1-1 call that was made Sunday evening, March 29. He said the child was found unresponsive on the floor in the living room and the child was not breathing. The paramedic noticed bruising in unusual places, calling it “suspicious.” He notified law enforcement to investigate.
Other witnesses are expected to testify including Cathy Torres, Mauricio, one of their daughters and other medical professionals.
Court begins again Friday, February 28, at 8:30 a.m. at the Benton County Courthouse Annex.