Warning: Some details of this case are graphic in nature and may be uncomfortable for some readers. Discretion is advised.

BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Mauricio Torres’ third capital murder trial for the abuse and killing of his six-year-old son resumed in Benton County circuit court on February 14 with a police officer that interviewed the defendant still on the witness stand.

Torres has already been convicted twice for the abuse and killing of his six-year-old son, Isaiah Torres, during a weekend camping trip in 2015. The first was overturned on a sentencing technicality, and the second was declared a mistrial when Torres’ stepson jumped out of the witness stand and attempted to attack him during sentencing.

At approximately 8:35 a.m., Judge Brad Karren announced that one member of the jury had been released and replaced with an alternate, the second such occurrence during the trial. Tim Cook then returned to the stand.

The Bella Vista Police Captain investigated the murder of Isaiah Torres in 2015 and was first called to testify on February 9. He interviewed Torres three times, and last week the jury watched videos of the first two interviews.

The third interview, conducted on the same April day as the second in April, 2015, immediately struck a different tone.

“It’s time to do this,” Torres told Cook. “Time to put this to rest. Time to be a man.” Before he could say more, Cook reminded him of his rights.

“I’m doing this for my son and my little girls,” Torres said. “And also for justice.”

He explained that he was “a man of love and compassion” just moments before saying “I know I’m a criminal and a monster.”

Torres then requested assistance from Cook in the form of meeting his nutritional needs in jail. The defendant said that he required 90 grams of protein daily following his surgery and said that the food was “horrible” and insufficient to maintain his health. While he acknowledged wanting a little comfort, his main reason for the request was his desire to “see this through.”

Torres was visibly distraught as he read from a handwritten statement that Cathy Torres had provided to police. He called it “a bunch of lies” as he read aloud her claim that he “has isolated me and the kids from outsiders.”

He refuted this at length and again cited his wife’s ongoing control issues.

“Anything that she wants, she gets,” he said. “Always has.”

After that, he referred to a “big stick” for the first time and admitted that he had been withholding information from the officer. He then claimed that the murder weapon was destroyed “without thinking about it.”

Later in the interview, Torres explained that the stick had been left in a fire pit at the campsite.

“It was an accident, this death,” he said once again. He then finally admitted to inserting the stick into his son’s rectum as punishment after discovering the boy had eaten some cake from the camper. Torres said that his wife then ordered Isaiah to do squats with the stick inside him, and she became upset when he wasn’t doing them fast enough for her liking.

Torres said that Cathy pushed the child, causing him to fall down onto the stick. He told Cook that he didn’t believe his wife intended to deliver “the final blow” in that moment.

“That abuse caused his death,” Torres said in the interview. He added that his wife was unwilling to admit that yet. “It was disbelief,” he said.

“That is murder,” he added. “Accidental or not, that’s murder.”

He continued by describing how the family then roasted marshmallows despite Isaiah’s complaints of pain. When Cook asked for specifics about the stick, Torres held his hands over a foot apart to indicate its length and he said that part of it broke off before it was left to burn in the fire.

Torres added that he used that item to beat his son because it was the “only thing that he responded to.”

“I got tired of spanking him a long time ago,” he noted. He went on to reveal that he had, in fact, used a stick to beat his son at home before.

“It’s all wrong,” the defendant admitted. “There’s no excuse.”

When the interview concluded after over 90 minutes, Torres seemed most concerned with how Captain Cook viewed him in light of the new information.

“So you don’t believe me, then?” he asked. Cook confirmed that “the truth is what we needed.”

“I just hung myself,” Torres said. “Now at least I can die with dignity.” He also attributed all of his actions to being “blinded by love” for his wife.

“What do you think of me?” he asked the officer. Cook was reluctant to offer the defendant the comfort or understanding he seemed to be seeking in the video, telling him that he couldn’t accept the things Torres had done.

“There’s no chance of hope for me,” Torres stated. With the final video finished, Judge Karren called for a brief morning recess at approximately 10:13 a.m.

The jury returned and prosecutor Nathan Smith concluded with a few final questions for Cook. Defense attorney George Morledge IV then conducted a cross-examination of the witness that included clarifying the nature of some of the many photos of the Torres residence already admitted into evidence.

The defense attorney also addressed the video testimony of his client, stating that the defendant “circles around a whole lot” and “contradicts himself a lot.”

“Oh, yes,” Cook agreed.

Morledge then noted the number of times that the defendant called the boy’s death “accidental,” saying that it was exactly 21 times during the course of the interviews. He then proceeded to mention Torres’ “introspective” time spent at a nearby motel after his son’s death where the defendant watched other parents interact lovingly with their children.

At approximately 11:18 a.m., Captain Cook was released and the next prosecution witness was called—Torres’ biological daughter, Madison, 15. The tenth-grader explained that she has new adoptive parents and that she stopped living with Mauricio and Cathy Torres when she was seven years old.

When asked to describe the family dynamic when she did live with them, her answer was succinct.

“Not normal,” she said. She added that the home was not safe or friendly, and also said that Mauricio was generally the more dominant authority figure in the home, contradicting claims that the defendant repeatedly made during interviews.

She also explained that her brother was forced to sleep in a dog cage in her parents’ master bathroom and that she was required to “lock him up almost every night” because the defendant told her to. She added that she witnessed abuse by Mauricio and Cathy and that her father made her participate as well, including instructing her to hit her younger brother with a stick.

When asked to describe what she used for that task, she said that it had rough edges and was “kind of spiky.” She said that Isaiaih’s abuse came mostly at the hands of their father, in the form of beatings with sticks, cables, shoes and fists.

Other indignities the boy suffered included being forced to consume urine and feces, and having his teeth removed with pliers, according to her testimony. She also recounted occasions when he was forced to stay inside a trash can and she detailed the time he went to the hospital due to chemical burns after his parents poured bleach on him.

She went on to discuss the events of the day her brother was murdered, describing how he slept on the floor of the family’s RV and was tied up with shoelaces and left in the camper’s bathtub. Before the abuse that would ultimately lead to his death, she said that Torres grabbed her brother by the ear, dragged him into the RV and ordered him to “get naked.”

She reported that afterward, her father instructed both girls not to say anything about what happened. She said that she obeyed her father’s orders when initially interviewed after Isaiah’s death.

On cross-examination, defense attorney Bill James seemed to question the details of her testimony, as he noted that there were “wide variations” in what she said today when compared to earlier hearings. She admitted that she initially withheld details when interviewed, and explained that is why her story later changed.

She made it clear that she was remembering the events the best that she could, and she was asked about her father’s reaction upon learning that his son had died.

“I don’t remember him crying,” she replied.

With her testimony complete after a brief re-direct, she was released from the witness stand and the judge called for a lunch recess just before noon.

State’s witness number nine was sworn in at approximately 1:22 p.m. and was fitted with a wireless microphone so that he could move about and point at photos that would be submitted into evidence during his testimony.

Dr. Stephen A. Erickson provided a lengthy explanation of his qualifications and professional history as a medical examiner and forensic pathology expert. He has served as the Deputy Chief medical examiner for the Arkansas State Crime Lab since 2007 and has performed autopsies from cases in every county in the state.

He explained his professional process of conducting a series of exams and procedures after bodies are brought to his lab in Little Rock. He said his goal is to thoroughly examine a body in order to “tell the story of that individual” through his autopsy report.

He also added that photography is an integral part of the process.

“People have to see the pictures to understand trauma,” he noted. He added that one key component of every exam includes looking for “the mechanism of death.”

He also explained that he has no criminal jurisdiction and that he merely determines a “medical manner of death,” adding that he can often determine whether a death was a homicide, suicide, due to natural causes or from something undetermined. He added that his examination of Isaiah Torres took two days and began on March 31, 2015.

The prosecution submitted the doctor’s 17-page final report into evidence.

“Anal rectal trauma” was determined to be the cause of death, and Dr. Erickson added that chronic signs of child abuse indicated that it was a “contributing cause” of death. He noted multiple injuries on the child’s head, trunk and extremities.

The medical examiner said that “acute peritonitis” was the scientific term for the infection that killed the six-year-old boy. Erickson explained that there is “tons of bacteria” in the body that can be problematic if it reaches the sterile cavity of the bowels.

“Once it gets in there, it spreads like wildfire,” he said. He also observed that Isaiah had suffered chemical burns before his death.

He noted the vast number of injuries that the victim has suffered over time, stating that many would have been “very obvious” and would have bled to a degree that would warrant stitches.

“It would have been a lot of blood,” he said as he described injuries to the boy’s chin, lips and teeth. “It helps tell this child’s story.” The doctor determined that the severe abuse had been inflicted over a course of approximately 14 months.

Many of those injuries were acute and happened shortly before his death. The examiner then said that he sees between four and eight deaths due to child abuse each year, and he described this case as “one of the worst in his career.”

The defense immediately called for a sidebar and moved for a mistrial, calling that statement “prejudicial” and stating that it would be “impossible to cross-examine on it” without access to every other autopsy the doctor had ever conducted.

Judge Karren sent the jury out of the courtroom at 1:45 p.m. and called for a recess to address the motion. Nathan Smith stated that there was “no intent to elicit” such a statement, and added that a mistrial would be a “drastic remedy.”

He added that the judge could just instruct the jury to disregard that one remark. The attorneys returned after briefly leaving the courtroom and defense attorney Jeffrey Rosenzweig noted that he was “not alleging any misconduct” by the state.

But Rosenzweig voiced concern about “unringing the bell” in a capital murder case, and said that a mistrial would be “not only appropriate but necessary.” Judge Karren responded by citing case law with similar motions in which the judge simply issued a curative instruction to the jury.

That is what ultimately happened in this case as the judge denied the defense’s motion for a mistrial. Karren explained that he had been watching the jury when the statement was made.

“They were not affected in any way,” he declared. The jury returned and was instructed to disregard any testimony comparing this case to any other one.

The prosecution then submitted over 30 autopsy photos into evidence. Dr. Erickson walked the jury through what he saw in each photo, pointing out wounds, injuries and scars on a monitor in front of the jury box.

Across the courtroom, Mauricio Torres hung his head at the defense table. He remained motionless for almost all of the rest of the medical examiner’s testimony, holding his forehead in his hand.

The medical examiner continued by stating that Isaiah’s hair was initially “tousled but clean.”

“Someone has cleaned this child up,” he said. He also recognized the extent of the child’s injuries immediately.

“I realized I was going to have a long day,” he stated. The same could have been said of the process of explaining what he found to the jury in each of the autopsy photos, as he went on to point out each wound, bruise and scar—some old, some very recent, and many that normally would have warranted medical attention, he said.

“This is not a post-mortem injury,” said medical examiner Dr. Stephen Erickson, pointing to one photo. “This is a big bruise. Scarring, scarring, scarring and lacerations. They’re everywhere.”

He also pointed out a “big laceration” on Isaiah’s chin that was never sown up and large areas of scarring under each lip. The boy also was missing teeth “not consistent with a child’s teeth growing out.”

“This child’s had a broken nose,” he added when a new photo was displayed. Some of the jurors had to pause and look away from the graphic images.

Dr. Erickson also explained the huge, discolored bruises he found on the victim’s torso.

“I’ve seen children hit in the stomach over and over,” he told the jury. “That’s what I thought. I was in error, though.”

He called the child’s knee injuries “very strange” and used his pointer to indicate wounds on Isaiah’s arms and shoulders that he determined were defensive injuries. Photos of the victim’s body flipped over indicated post-mortem lividity.

“There’s a lot to tell on this child’s back,” he said, including residual signs of chemical burns he may have suffered 14 months earlier. He called the sum total of injuries “a textbook example of chronic, repeated abuse.”

As for the fatal rectal injury, the doctor determined that it was caused by a “hard, narrow object.” He was initially confused about how that killed the child.

“This is not normal,” he said, describing Isaiah’s severe sepsis after his rectum was punctured. Further examination of that wound made it clear that the injury was consistent with instrumentation.

“I know I’ve got a cause of death,” he said of that discovery. “This is what killed this child.”

He added that a “rough instrument” was what “finally punched through” by “assaultive force.” He noted that Isaiah’s body had suffered a “massive inflammatory response.”

“The clock is ticking once you get this injury,” he added. He noted that he has seen similar rectal injuries involving stabbings and gunshots in which the victims survived due to timely treatment of the injuries.

The doctor explained that the boy’s body had a “systemic response” to the injury and that his organs were unable to receive the oxygenated blood they needed to continue functioning.

The defense’s cross-examination noted that Isaiah had survived all of his other injuries before the fatal one to his rectum. He also asked the medical examiner about a CDC push around that time to attempt to identify sepsis faster, which the doctor confirmed, noting that the signs and symptoms can mimic those of other ailments.

The defense also had the doctor confirm that the teeth Isaiah had had forcibly removed were his baby teeth. Additional questioning of the medical examiner revealed that the victim’s weight at his time of death was 37 pounds, but that he did not look malnourished or dehydrated.

Dr. Erickson also said that he did not see any ligature marks consistent with Isaiah’s being tied up with shoelaces before his death. A re-direct and another brief cross followed, with the defense asking about prior testimony in which Dr. Erickson speculated about the cause of some of the boy’s head wounds.

“Personally, I thought it was a ring,” he said, but he also noted that he wasn’t certain of this. After the day’s testimony finished, the judge made a meticulous reminder to the jury about their responsibilities, and he singled out the lone remaining alternate, instructing that person to treat the remainder of the case as if already a member of the jury.

The trial is scheduled to resume at 8:30 a.m. on February 15.