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) – Day four of Mauricio Torres’ third capital murder trial in Benton County circuit court for the abuse and killing of his son began with the jury hearing testimony the defendant provided in 2020.

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.

After Judge Brad Karren reminded the jury of their duties and responsibilities, prosecuting attorney Nathan Smith submitted a transcript of Torres’ testimony in a previous trial as state’s exhibit #82. That transcript was read to the jury for approximately an hour, with defense attorneys Brynna Barnica and Bryan Sexton reading the words of Smith and Torres, respectively.

The defendant provided details about his earlier life, and explained that he left El Salvador in order to move to California at the age of 10, seeking “a piece of the American pie.” He said that his family in America owned a series of failing businesses, leading him to “split from my family and do something on my own.”

“They worked hard but they weren’t educated,” he said of his uncles that he lived and worked with. Torres enrolled in school and studied to become an occupational therapist.

He stated that the job appealed to him because it would allow him to be “caring, compassionate and kind and get paid for it.” He said that the core goal of his role was to help patients “maximize independence.”

Cathy Torres

The defendant moved for work and met Cathy Torres in Northeast Arkansas. They later moved together to Bella Vista, where she worked primarily from home in medical billing.

Torres explained that he gave her “all the power and control” that she wanted. He also said that he primarily let her handle disciplining their children and added that he was “not fond of corporal punishment.”

He went on to say that he couldn’t risk getting in any trouble with the law, and he said that his wife threatened to throw him out of their house.

“I felt like I was trapped,” he said. “The world revolves around her.” He added that much of what he did was done just to make her happy.

A story about his plans to buy more land in Missouri and build a cabin there led into describing what happened on the morning of Isaiah’s murder. After catching the boy with cake on his face, the child was ordered to strip naked and stand in the corner, where his father called him “a big baby.”

The defendant then mentioned grabbing the stick that he regularly used to beat his son, but claimed that he didn’t know what he was thinking of shortly before inserting it into the victim’s rectum and ordering him to perform “up-down” squats. He added that his wife smacked the boy on his head as this occurred, and his older daughter “encouraged” her brother to go faster.

According to Torres, that is when the boy fell. He noted that Isaiah “made a loud cry” at the time.

“It hurt,” the defendant observed. “Things just kind of escalated,” he said.

As the testimony continued on to Torres’ recounting of the family’s return to Arkansas and Isaiah’s deteriorating condition, the defendant became emotional at the defense table, and he emitted a loud wail as the attorneys read about the wait for an ambulance to arrive that “seemed like an eternity.”

Torres then embraced one of his attorneys before burying his head in his arms at his seat.

In reading Torres’ prior testimony, the prosecution noted that the story he told in court that day was different from the ones he had provided during the police interviews on video.

“I’ve got to make the story believable,” he said. He added that he felt that the legal process wasn’t going to “put a female in front of a firing squad.”

Judge Brad Karren called for a morning recess at 9:37 a.m. When the proceedings resumed, prosecutor Nathan Smith took over reading his own portion of the 2020 transcript as the tone of his questioning changed.

He began by telling Torres that this was the “fourth or fifth version” of what had happened. “You told something today that you never said before.”

For just over an hour, Smith addressed the web of contradictory statements and lies that Torres made during his police interviews and in courtroom testimony. He pointed out that the defendant initially denied participating in the incident that killed the victim before later admitting that he did.

“You abused your son to please Cathy Torres,” Smith said.

“I disciplined him,” Torres responded. Smith went on to reference autopsy photos that showed that the boy had been “horrifically beaten,” including suffering a broken nose. Torres could not confirm which facial injuries he had caused.

“It’s hard to say,” he replied. When asked how Isaiah ended up looking that way, Torres had another short response.

“Physical abuse,” he stated.

Smith also took issue with Torres’ claim that he didn’t believe in corporal punishment, given the state of the body at the time of death. The defendant insisted that it was still his “verbal opinion.”

He confessed to letting that abuse continue.

“I allowed it to go on,” he said, just moments before adding that he loved his son.

“Now he’s dead and you killed him,” Smith countered.

The contradictions continued as Torres denied treating his girls differently immediately before stating that they needed to be treated “like princesses.” Part of the defendant’s concern was hope that they wouldn’t grow up to be abused as adults.

“By someone like you,” Smith interjected.

“Yeah,” Torres answered. Smith pivoted to Isaiah’s back injuries, which were clearly evident from autopsy photos but that Torres had referred to as “faint.”

“Does that look faint to you?” he asked, showing Torres the picture in question. “No,” the defendant replied.

Torres’ story about his son’s fatal injury also changed when he said that his son “fell and the thing just went in him” after already admitting that he had inserted it. Smith speculated that it must have done so at an improbable “perfect angle.”

Torres added that his wife and daughter were hitting the child on his head and shoulders when the fall happened.

“It all happened so quickly,” Torres said. He also explained that his interviews with Bella Vista Police Captain Cook weren’t as honest or forthcoming as he initially claimed, and he admitted that he himself was “fishing” for information.

“As he was reeling me in, I was reeling him in,” he said, noting that at that point he wasn’t trusting “anyone or anything.” He also remained concerned with his incorrect assumption that his wife would face lesser charges for Isaiah’s murder.

“A man has disadvantages” in a situation like this, he stated. He did admit to chronic abuse, but continued to deny killing the six-year-old.

“I did not murder my son,” he declared. Smith proceeded to ask him about the victim’s assorted injuries, receiving a combination of confirmations and evasive answers.

Torres admitted to pulling some of the child’s teeth out with pliers and explained that his grandfather used to do that to him. But when it came to head wounds, the defendant simply said, “He’s clumsy. He’s not like an ordinary kid.”

The defendant was also concerned with how his testimony would be received.

“The truth that I tell today would not be believed in any court system,” he said. “To make it more believable, I have to implicate myself.”

Smith then followed up about the “ridiculous story” that Torres just told.

“Do you think he would have bought that?” Torres replied, referring to Captain Cook. Smith peppered the defendant with specific follow-ups, getting him to admit over and over that he had lied, including but not limited to saying he didn’t know what happened, the topic of the “faint bruise” on Isaiah’s back and not knowing who was responsible for the boy’s chemical burns—all lies.

Smith deemed that day’s testimony “a totally new story.”

“A totally new story?” Torres responded. “I told the truth.”

More admissions of lies included knowing about the blood on the family home’s walls, the damage that a stick could do to internal organs and the burning of the murder weapon. Smith was incredulous as he described how Isaiah had been “beaten to a bloody pulp” and Torres’ response was to call him a “big baby.”

That is “when the mask fell” for him, he told the defendant, quoting Torres when he said “the truth is ugly.”

“You know that I didn’t do what I should have done,” Torres replied.

Even with an attorney reading the transcript, it was clear that Torres became more agitated at that point, as the record reflected him repeating himself and stumbling over words. Smith eventually had to cut off “this incessant talking” to get the questioning back on track.

He reminded Torres that during police interviews, the defendant had already admitted that he was guilty of murder.

“Yes, I did,” Torres replied. “But the truth was said today.”

“If you’re trying to kill me, kill me with the truth. You don’t want that to be the truth. The whole thing is horrible, horrific, sick.”

Mauricio Torres, Transcript of State of Arkansas vs. Mauricio Torres 2020 trial

When the reading of that transcript finished just before 11 a.m., the prosecution rested.

The defense then filed several motions with Judge Karren, all of which were ultimately denied. Its first asserted that the “entire charge of capital murder” had been made invalid by a “vague” statement made about the nature of the crime at the start of the case.

The next motions sought to reduce the charge of capital murder to negligent homicide, manslaughter, second-degree murder or first-degree murder. Defense attorney Jeff Rosenzweig also offered a theory that the defendant was only subject to “accomplice liability.”

“The perpetrator was Cathy Torres,” he said.

“There’s no legal distinction,” Smith countered, noting that evidence pointed to “support that he’s acting as the principal.”

After a lunch recess, the jury returned to the courtroom and heard from the first defense witness, Cathy Torres. She entered slowly, shackled and dressed in a black-and-white striped prison uniform.

Defense attorney Bill James began by asking where she lived.

“Newport,” she answered. A follow-up question revealed that she was referring to a correctional facility where she is serving her sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Further questions explored her educational and professional history, including when she worked from home at the time of the murder. She also disputed the defendant’s claims about how often he left for work early or returned late, noting that she often began her work day before he departed.

She confirmed that she was the family’s main caregiver and that she had provided “at least four” statements in this case to date. But after this, her recollection of related events became much less clear.

When asked if she had ever acknowledged that she caused injury to Isaiah, she could not remember. James then walked her through all 31 autopsy photos that had been submitted into evidence and asked her to identify specific injuries that she recognized or knew the cause of.

These were few and far between. She said one occurred when he “fell and busted his chin.” Another wound came when he slid and fell on the camper’s door.

She responded to the photo of her son’s missing teeth and severe mouth scarring by simply saying, “He had one tooth missing because it fell out.” James was mystified when she couldn’t remember the nature of the victim’s copious amount of bruising.

“I don’t remember a lot of stuff,” she said.

“Have you had a lot of children beaten to death in your life?” James barked.

Her unclear memory remained for other graphic photos of her son’s wounds.

“A couple times he fell and hit his head,” she said when presented with bruises around his eyes. As for the gashes on his knee so deep that the medical examiner said he could see the fat, she “didn’t know anything about that.”

“It’s fair to say your son never mentioned any of these,” James said.

“Correct,” she said.

Isaiah Torres

Her denials continued through the remaining photos. Regarding her lack of awareness of his numerous head wounds and scars, she explained that, “He liked wearing hats.”

She also testified that she never found blood on his clothes. She didn’t have many details about the events after they returned to Arkansas on the day of her son’s death, either.

James asked her about the 911 call.

“I just know that I gave her our address,” she said.

“What were your concerns at that moment?” James queried.

“I just wanted them to send an ambulance,” she stated. James then played that call for the jury again, which led to a distraught response from Mauricio Torres at the defense table, who started crying as he listened.

James concluded by noting his confusion at how she had pleaded guilty to capital murder yet hadn’t admitted to anything on the stand today.

“It defies logic, doesn’t it?” he asked rhetorically.

Prosecuting attorney Sexton handled her cross-examination and began by submitting a statement of facts from her plea agreement into evidence.

“Do you remember this document?” he asked as he brandished the file that she signed before being sent to prison for the rest of her life.

“It’s been a few years,” she said before confirming that it was a true and accurate account at the time that she signed it.

She went on to confirm that all of the family used sticks and other objects to beat Isaiah “to toughen him up” because the Torres family patriarch “wanted him to learn to be a man.”

She also refuted her husband’s testimony about who controlled the family.

“His needs came first,” she explained.

James then conducted a heated re-direct of the witness, asking if she had lied to the jury today.

“I said I wasn’t sure,” she answered. “I don’t remember everything.”

The defense attorney then openly questioned the veracity of her testimony.

“You would never believe this story,” he told her. “You’re not that stupid.”

He then asked about the logic behind her plea agreement.

“That’s the choice I made,” she said simply. She added that preventing her children from going through “trial after trial after trial” was a factor in her decision.

“That wasn’t fair for them,” she said. She was excused from the stand at 3:10 p.m. and the judge called for a short recess.

At 3:34 p.m., the jury returned and the defense called its second and final witness: the defendant, Mauricio Torres. After hearing hours of his testimony from videos and transcripts, the jury finally heard from him in person.

He began by confirming that not all of his statements were true. He also addressed his “fishing” expedition during an interview with Captain Cook by explaining that he was “trying to get information” about what happened to his son, including how he died, because he alleged that he “had no idea.”

Torres took a long pause before answering when asked why he hit his son.

“Because my wife pushed me to it,” he finally said. He also said that he simply wanted her to leave him alone.

He then described his regular 10-14 hour work days that ended with him arriving home and discovering his son’s newest injuries.

“They were always arguing all the time,” he said of his wife and son. “She would get upset and hit him.” He also noted that she wanted Mauricio to get involved “every time.”

He also presented new information, saying that he never reported the boy’s injuries because he feared that his wife would blame him.

“I lose either way,” he said, referring to potential repercussions on his job, his future career options and his children. He also admitted that in doing nothing, he made “the wrong choice.”

When asked about the day of his son’s murder, Torres’ story changed again. This time, he said that he woke up to find the trailer a mess, with his son naked in the corner.

“I decided to humiliate him, to make fun of him,” the defendant said. He noted that the stick was simply off to “the side” and that he was merely “teasing” his son when he grabbed it and wielded it as “part of the humiliation.”

He said that Isaiah was holding the stick by the “side of his buttocks” when performing the squats his parents ordered. Torres added that his wife pushed him “all the way down” when he wasn’t moving fast enough.

After earlier reporting that he saw blood, Torres was now “not 100% sure.” After the incident that would kill his son, Torres said that the boy was “just making a face.”

“I was more concerned about going to the bathroom,” the defendant added.

“Did you think he was okay?” the defense attorney asked.

“I didn’t think much of it,” Torres replied.

The details of Torres’ story also transformed when he detailed the family’s return to Arkansas. He noted that his son made a “funny” whistling noise while snoring.

“His eyes came halfway open,” he explained before saying that he told his wife their son “just took his last breath.”

Nathan Smith proceeded with an energetic cross-examination, immediately referencing the graphic autopsy photos by asking Torres if the child’s chemical injury was due to bleach.

“No, sir,” Torres replied.

“It’s fair to say you’ve had several different statements,” Smith offered after a few more contradictions by the defendant. The manner of death was one of those.

“You expect us to believe that your son just fell on a stick,” he stated. “The minute you take that child to a hospital, you’re going to jail.”

He theorized that Torres didn’t call 911 until he had “no other option” because there was a dead body in his house. He then asked if Torres lied about the stick in the victim’s rectum.

“Yes,” Torres confirmed. “I didn’t think he was going to die from it. I hit my son. I put bruises on him. So did my wife.”

He also added that Cathy Torres “would not admit to anything.”

“All I know is that I had to make the story believable,” he declared. Smith noted that turning her in was the man’s only option at that point.

“But you didn’t do that,” the prosecutor noted.

The defendant began to cry and addressed the jury directly as he tried to explain his actions or lack thereof.

“If I would have known that that incident would have taken his life, I would have taken him to the doctor,” he said through tears.

Smith then focused on Torres’ selfish nature, including not taking the child to the hospital despite reporting seeing blood from his injury. The prosecutor asked him point blank if he was more worried about himself.

“I didn’t want to be alone,” the defendant answered. “I thought about myself more than my son.”

Smith also read a quote in which Torres had referred to himself as “a victim.”

“Are you guilty” he then asked.

“I know I’m guilty for causing those injuries,” he admitted. He then claimed that he was trying to “preserve his family.”

Torres’ answers became more rambling and he needed to be directed to answer counsel’s questions multiple times. The emotional defendant reminded the court that English was his second language.

“I’ll go slow,” Smith responded. He then concluded by quoting Torres back to him.

“The truth is ugly.”

With that, the defense rested at 4:43 p.m. Judge Karren sent the jurors off after a brief reminder about their responsibilities.

When heading back to the defense table, Torres nearly fell and was caught by one of his attorneys. The defense explained that the defendant had been in pain all week.

Attorneys for both sides remained after 5 p.m. to collaborate on crafting jury instructions. The trial will resume tomorrow morning at 8:30 a.m. with closing arguments.