MODESTO — Stephanie Torres had yet to turn 3 years old when she was found lifeless in her crib wearing a pink dress and a soiled, wet diaper. A pathologist testified that the little girl from Turlock had not been fed or given anything to drink for several days before she was discovered.
Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Dawna Reeves on Monday ruled that there was enough evidence for the toddler's mother, Brandy Lee Rose Devine, to stand trial, accused of murder and willful cruelty to a child in connection with Stephanie's death.
The judge scheduled Devine to return to court March 18 for an arraignment. The defendant remains in custody at the Stanislaus County Jail.
Devine, 25, also will stand trial charged with using methamphetamine and an enhancement alleging that she inflicted great bodily injury on the child.
Deputy District Attorney John R. Mayne and Deputy Public Defender Marcus Mumford have agreed to stipulate that blood taken when Devine was arrested tested positive for meth use within the past 72 hours.
Pathologist Eugene Carpenter testified Monday that the girl had been dead a day or two before she was found in the crib about 12:30 p.m. July 16 at the home in the 1100 block of North Denair Avenue in Turlock.
Carpenter said Stephanie died from dehydration and malnourishment.
He said she had been prematurely born at 29 weeks and had suffered complications that resulted in lack of oxygen to the brain. The premature birth resulted in chronic medical conditions, possibly cerebral palsy.
The pathologist, however, made it clear that the child died as a result of neglect.
"This is an injury to a very sick child," Carpenter testified. "This is not caused by the chronic conditions."
Even though Stephanie was close to her third birthday, Carpenter said the girl's body appeared the size of a 1- or 2-year-old. She weighed about 14 pounds. He said the child's eyes were soft and her skin was like red dough, both signs of lack of water.
Carpenter, who conducted the autopsy, testified that the child's abdomen was caved in, so much that "you could almost see the spine."
A detective testified last week that Devine told him she had put Stephanie in a room the Friday before the Monday when she was found dead and had not opened the door the entire weekend. Devine also told him she smoked meth after feeling ill all weekend.
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2394.