BENTON COUNTY, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) – On day two of Mauricio Torres’ third capital murder trial in Benton County circuit court, Captain Tim Cook of the Bella Vista Police Department returned to the witness stand to continue his testimony that began on February 9.
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.
Cook, a decorated and award-winning veteran officer of the force, interviewed Torres three times in April, 2015 and the prosecution submitted videos of those interviews into evidence. The morning session began at approximately 8:38 a.m. with prosecutor Nathan Smith submitting a 15-pound weight into evidence as well.
The jury watched a lengthy video of Cook interviewing Torres, with the defendant displaying a different demeanor than in the earlier interview Cook conducted. He wasn’t as quick to deny wrongdoing.
Cook informed Torres that an arrest warrant for him had been issued.
“If I participated, I didn’t do things alone,” he told Cook. “I know I’m guilty by association.”
Torres proceeded to discuss his wife’s attitude and actions in connection with their son’s death.
“She was a lot more calmer than I was,” he explained. He also said that her behavior toward him changed after they called 911. “Her reaction was f’ing fake,” he said.
The defendant then made the first of several references to the situation as “a puzzle,” and one for which he did not have all the pieces. But he admitted that the ultimate solution would involve him and his wife.
“You’ve got to put both of us together,” he said. “I’m all for justice,” he added, including “punishment for the guilty.”
The topics of discussion then took multiple, meandering detours. Torres told Cook about Cathy’s inability to express her feelings or make gestures of love and her lack of a nurturing instinct. He then veered into speculation about whether Isaiah had an undiagnosed condition like hyperglycemia or diabetes that could have been a factor in his death.
He then discussed the boy’s problems with female authority—something he noted was an issue for himself as well. Mauricio then described his own childhood beatings with a belt at the hand of his father.
Torres, who previously claimed he only spanked his children, admitted to hitting his son with a belt too. When pressed about whether he had ever struck him with an extension cord, Torres took an extended pause before confessing that he had.
He eventually shed more light on Isaiah’s abuse, disclosing that the beatings became “a family event” in which he, his wife, and his daughters all participated. When asked about it, he explained that Isaiah’s sister Madison would strike him with a sandal.
“It was like a game,” Torres said. “It was fun for them.”
Isaiah’s punishments also included forced exercise. The undersized boy was made to do squats and push-ups, and the defendant described one event when his son tripped, fell, and hit himself in the head with a 15-pound weight.
Then on the video, Captain Cook disclosed that the child’s cause of death had been determined. The officer described those two reasons—chronic child abuse and a severe rectal injury that led to internal bleeding and sepsis—in detail.
“Who raped Isaiah?” Torres asked. “Not me. I have never done that. That doesn’t make any sense.”
“This is why Isaiah died,” Cook explained. “This is why he had a stomach ache.”
“That is a horrible death,” Torres replied. “I didn’t know anything about it. I don’t.”
Cook went on to explain that the rape of the kindergartner wasn’t necessarily sexual in nature, and that it was more likely an issue of power.
“That makes sense now,” the defendant admitted. Judge Brad Karren then called for a brief morning recess.
When the jury returned, the video resumed with an impactful statement from Cook.
“I’m arresting both of y’all,” he told Torres, who was under the impression that his wife was receiving lesser charges. The Captain explained that they were being arrested on “the exact same charges.”
“The puzzle pieces aren’t matching very well,” Cook added. Torres responded by saying that it only took common sense to understand that the police had probable cause in the case. He even said that if he were in Cook’s place, he would do the same thing.
In contrast to the previous day’s videos, Torres could be seen turning around in his seat at the defense table to watch the video on the large wall-mounted monitor directly above and behind him.
Cook continued explaining the new revelations in the case by telling Torres about a pair of cushions stained with Isaiah’s blood that were recovered from the RV.
“If he bled, I was not aware of that,” the defendant said. He then redirected the interview to a variety of topics, rambling again about the boy’s stomach ache and his children playing outside, among other things. Cook refocused his attention.
“This is very, very serious,” the officer stated. “Someone did something that killed that boy.” He added that it would take courage and integrity for Torres to tell the complete truth.
“If I did something, I never would have called 911,” the defendant countered, growing visibly more defensive on the video. He also reminded the officer that he had agreed to the interview willingly.
Cook then again described the chronic abuse that Isaiah had suffered before his death.
“Whoops,” Torres commented. “Guilty, you know.” He added that he thought the medical examiner’s report would reveal that his son had a “medical condition nobody picked up on.”
When Cook left the frame for a brief moment, Torres rose on the screen and politely voiced his desire to talk to his lawyer.
With the interview concluded, Nathan Smith returned to direct questioning of the witness by asking him about his overall impressions of that interview conducted approximately one week after Isaiah Torres’ murder.
The Captain responded by saying that he felt Torres was only providing information that he wanted the police to know, and not “the full truth.” Cook added that at the time, he didn’t expect to ever speak to Torres again.
The next video submitted into evidence was of another interview Cook held with Torres the very next day—at the defendant’s request. In this one, jurors saw him in a black-and-white striped jumpsuit for the jailhouse interview.
Cook advised the defendant of all his rights yet again, and reminded him that he had the right to remain silent and wasn’t required to participate in the interview, with a reminder that he could stop it at any time.
“You’re emotional now,” Cook observed. “What do you want to make right?”
“Everything,” Torres answered. “As you know, I’ve been protecting my wife.” The defendant looked much more resigned on the monitors as the jurors watched him broach the subject of a confession.
“When there’s a confession and truth is told, does the process move faster?” he asked. The officer explained that while there were no guarantees, it could possibly do that.
“I am not made to be locked up,” Torres lamented. He then began discussing the idea of suicide, but noted that if he did that, “She walks,” and that “wouldn’t do justice to my son.”
His goal was for both of them to “pay society” for what they had done, even though he had yet to admit to his specific actions on the day his son was murdered. “I want to go meet God in heaven and him punish me.”
“If I take my own life, at least I know the truth was told.”
Mauricio Torres, custodial interview with BVPD Captain Tim Cook, April 7, 2015
He also questioned why his wife would receive lesser charges and Cook corrected him and reminded him that was not the case. The officer then simply asked Torres what happened.
“I can’t betray my wife,” he said in a sentiment that he would go on to repeat over the course of the video. “I’m sorry.” Cook replied that failing to tell the truth would be a betrayal of Isaiah, not Cathy.
“I fought for him,” Torres replied. “I now have to fight for the ones that are alive.” He later stated that what happened to his son was “accidental.”
“Both parents are at fault,” he declared. “There’s no argument.”
“You need to unburden your soul,” the Captain suggested. “It will eat at you.” The two continued to verbally dance around the actions of that day, with Torres alternating between refusing to betray his wife and questioning her own motives.
“The person you’re betraying is Isaiah,” Cook said. He urged Torres to overcome his “misguided loyalty” and offer up the complete truth.
“You will answer for this one day,” the officer said. “Don’t fail him now. And don’t fail yourself.”
“When my son died, a part of me died with him,” the defendant said. “Forever.” He added that he was ready to pay for his sins, but that he didn’t want his wife to. Judge Karren called for a recess when the jury’s lunch arrived at approximately 11:50 a.m.
The trial resumed at 1:23 p.m. by returning to the video. Captain Cook implored Torres to be less concerned about his wife’s welfare in the situation.
“Cathy can take care of herself,” he said. “Cathy had a choice.”
“Just don’t let her walk away,” Torres replied. The defendant then voiced his concerns that the law would be more lenient with her because she was the victim’s mother. Cook explained that leniency would only come for whoever spoke the truth.
“I lost everything and nothing would be the same,” Torres stated. “I know the system just wants to find one person guilty.”
Torres fluctuated between trying to explain away his son’s death and resenting his wife and her involvement in the killing.
“She has betrayed our family by her actions,” Torres told Cook. “She has betrayed her little girls. And that, to me, is dishonorable.”
“Then help me,” the officer replied. “The truth does that. Let it go.”
Torres continued to avoid providing more specifics about the incident that killed his son, and Cook finally grew weary of that on the video.
“Don’t say ‘betrayal’ anymore,” he stated. Torres continued his emotional rollercoaster, saying that it would be easier if he had “done something alone” while also saying that his wife had no right to send him to death. He also felt that the police were treating the crime in a “one-sided” manner.
Torres showed relief on the video when he learned that his mother-in-law had handled Isaiah’s burial arrangements. He also voiced concern about “losing” Cook as a confidant if he revealed details about the crime scene’s location, fearing that the case’s jurisdiction would fall in Missouri.
Captain Cook assured Torres that the case would remain in Arkansas because that is where the boy died. Cook returned to Torres’ theory about the crime being a “puzzle” by saying that the defendant was holding onto two key pieces: the location where the killing happened, and the object that was used to do it.
Torres finally admitted that the incident that caused his son’s fatal injury happened inside their camper RV, but he was evasive about providing further details. Cook pressed him for more on the item that was used.
“I don’t know what she did with it,” Torres claimed. “I think you’ve got an idea what it is.”
The judge and attorneys held a brief sidebar at 2:50 p.m. and the jury agreed to press on in order to finish watching the video. Cook turned the topic back to the defendant’s wife.
“She wants to put it on you,” he said before describing Cathy’s explanation about going to Lowe’s that day with one of the girls.
“She’s the one lying to you,” Torres said to that. “To your face.”
The defendant went on to say that the family slept in that morning, and he estimated that his wife’s trip to Lowe’s happened between 12 and 2 p.m. The pair then circled back to various topics they had touched on multiple times before, such as who was responsible and the specifics of Isaiah’s abuse.
Cook informed the defendant that the crime lab had determined that the child had 50 wounds on his head at the time of his death. The Captain described it as “one of the most difficult photos I’ve ever looked at in my life.”
Torres became agitated on the video when the questioning turned to Cathy painting him as the true villain in the scenario.
“If I was this so-called monster, it would be a lot more to it,” he replied.
“You all are equally culpable for what happened in Isaiah’s life,” the Captain countered.
“Exactly,” Torres replied.
Cook then steered the discussion to addressing chemical burns the boy had suffered on his back, and he voiced his confusion at how that could have happened. Torres chalked it up to Isaiah “playing” with them in the bathtub.
More probing led to Torres admitting that the “inappropriate beating” of his son had been going on for two and a half years. Cook then offered the defendant a final chance to offer up details about “anything bad.”
“We both are equally guilty, okay?” Torres said. “That’s all I’m going to say.”
At 4:10 p.m., the video concluded. Prosecutor Nathan Smith suggested that it would be best to wait to begin the video of the third interview on the next day of the trial. The judge and attorneys from both sides then briefly discussed a residence issue involving one of the jurors that all the parties agreed to address next week.
Judge Karren informed the court that the trial will take a day off on Monday as the court uses the day to get caught up on its docket of other cases. The jurors were instructed to continue to avoid reading or talking about the case.
Day three of the trial will continue with more state witness testimony on February 14.