MODESTO — A Turlock woman locked her 2-year-old daughter in a room with five cats and left her there for the weekend while she smoked methamphetamine with a friend, prosecutors allege.
A neighbor and two police officers testified Friday morning in the preliminary hearing of Brandy Lee Rose Devine, who is accused of murder and willful cruelty in the July death of her daughter, Stephanie Torres.
Devine, 25, had four children, ranging from a newborn to 6 years old at the time of the July 16 incident.
Neighbor Lydia Whitworth said Devine's older children often played with Whitworth's granddaughter. They regularly appeared disheveled and dirty and would ask for something to eat.
In Stanislaus County Superior Court on Friday morning, Whitworth broke down and cried when describing the day of July 16, when she heard Devine screaming and went to investigate.
Devine, in a red jail shirt and pants and wearing a long ponytail, stared straight ahead during testimony, her right leg shaking throughout the hearing.
"She goes, 'The baby's dead,' " Whitworth said.
The neighbor said she thought Devine was referring to the infant, a boy. "She said, 'No, the baby.' "
Whitworth went into the back bedroom, where she found Stephanie in a crib.
"She was laying in her crib just straight, with her eyes rolled back in her head," Whitworth said.
When prosecutor John Mayne asked about Stephanie's apparent health, Whitworth answered. "She was dead. She was totally gray. Her diaper was full of poop and urine and it was all on the bed."
Whitworth and police officers Amy Beebe and Justin Williamson, who responded to the case, also described an overwhelming smell in the room.
Beebe, the first responder on site, described it as a "very heavy odor of cat urine."
The prosecution witnesses also said they saw several cats, cat litter and feces in the cluttered room.
Beebe said she took Stephanie out of the crib and laid her on the hallway floor, the only flat surface readily available. She said the little girl was cold, and attempts to perform CPR were unsuccessful. When firefighters arrived they declared the girl dead.
Williamson, the detective assigned to the case, said Devine told him she had put Stephanie in the room the Friday prior to the Monday when she was found and had not opened the door the entire weekend.
The cause of Stephanie's death has not been publicly disclosed.
Williamson said Devine provided food for her other children, but not for Stephanie, who suffered from cerebral palsy.
"She told me she assumed her 6-year-old child was caring for her 2-year-old child," Williamson said.
But the 6-year-old told authorities that Devine wouldn't let her check on Stephanie during the weekend.
Devine also has been charged with the use of methamphetamine and an enhancement alleging that she personally inflicted great bodily injury on the child.
Prior to Friday's hearing, Mayne and defense attorney Marcus Mumford agreed to stipulate that blood taken when Devine was arrested tested positive for methamphetamine use within the past 72 hours.
Williamson said Devine told him she smoked methamphetamine with a man she knew only as "Scott" on Sunday after feeling ill all weekend.
"She thought it would help her wake up and feel better," Williamson said.
Devine's oldest child, who is now 7, is expected to testify when the preliminary hearing resumes Monday. Mumford said he does not plan to call any witnesses.
At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, Judge Dawna Reeves will determine if there's enough evidence to proceed to trial.
Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2343. Follow her on Twitter, @pattyguerra.