Prosecution begins closing arguments in Modesto baby sitter’s trial

05/07/2014 8:12 PM

05/07/2014 8:13 PM

There’s no question Alexandra Medina-Cisneros suffered fatal injuries while in the care of her baby sitter.

A jury will have to determine whether the toddler accidentally fell down a flight of stairs or was beaten to death by the sitter, Maria Elena Torres.

Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees began her closing argument Wednesday afternoon. She said an autopsy found tearing on the child’s liver, pancreas and left kidney. Alexandra’s pancreas and left kidney were torn in two, and her right kidney was badly bruised. “That did not happen falling down the stairs,” Rees told the jury.

Deputy Public Defender Greg Spiering will start his closing argument Thursday. In his opening statement to the jury, he said Torres told authorities and the child’s mother that Alexandra had fallen down the stairs from her second-floor apartment. Spiering has told the jury that his client never changed her story, and that a witness saw the child at the bottom of the stairs.

The incident occurred Feb. 7, 2012, at El Casa Verde apartments at Robertson Road and Sutter Avenue. Torres and Alexandra’s mother were longtime friends, and the defendant watched the 18-month-old child while the girl’s mother was at work.

The prosecutor argued that Torres had a temper and was comfortable using violence on her children. Torres’ eldest daughter, who was 8 at the time, told authorities her mother had hit her with a clothing hanger, a belt and sandal when the child made her angry. “Under the right circumstances, a person is capable of anything,” Rees said in court. “(Torres) was always screaming, Alexandra would cry all the time.”

She gave the jury the prosecution’s theory of what happened that day. The prosecutor said it was late in the afternoon, her children were cranky because they hadn’t eaten, her husband was on his way home and she hadn’t started preparing the meal. Rees also theorized that Torres wanted to return to watching her favorite soap operas, and Alexandra wouldn’t stop crying, so she took the toddler into the bedroom and turned up the music before beating Alexandra.

The defense attorney objected, telling the judge that there was no evidence that supported the prosecutor’s speculation. Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Scott Steffen allowed Rees to continue, telling Spiering this was her argument based on her understanding of the case.

Torres told investigators she tried to revive Alexandra using CPR, applying rubbing alcohol on her and placing her under running cold water. An hour passed before the defendant went to the girl’s nearby home to get help.

Rees argued that this probably was true, because Torres wanted the child to wake up to avoid having to tell Alexandra’s mother what she had done.

Torres told investigators she tried calling 911, but her home phone wasn’t working. That’s why she went to the child’s home to ask a relative there to call for help. The prosecutor told the jury that investigators made calls and received calls using Torres’ phone later that day, and it worked fine. Rees also said phone records indicate calls were not answered at the home around the time the child was injured.

Torres told investigators she had called Alexandra’s mother using her home phone, leaving a message about the child’s injuries shortly before she unsuccessfully tried calling 911. Earlier in the day, Torres had received calls from Alexandra’s mother and her husband without phone connection problems.

Rees argued that Alexandra’s injuries rule out Torres’ claim of a fall down the stairs. She said the child had no skull fractures and relatively no cuts, even though she supposedly fell down concrete stairs with iron railings. Instead, the child suffered extensive internal injuries and scattered small bruises all over her abdomen. A child abuse expert testified that those “profoundly abnormal” injuries show that Alexandra was beaten to death. He said the child did not die from falling down the stairs.

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