A prosecutor on Tuesday told a jury that investigators found images of Mark Edward Mesiti sexually assaulting his daughter, Alycia Mesiti, while the teenage girl was unconscious.
Chief Deputy District Attorney Annette Rees told jurors the girl died of a “mixed drug intoxication.” The prosecutor believes the defendant is responsible for his daughter’s death.
Eight years ago, the 14-year-old girl’s body was found buried in the backyard of the Ceres home where her father lived at the time of her disappearance in August 2006. He had since moved to Southern California.
Martin Baker, Mesiti’s attorney, told the jury Alycia did die in the home she shared with her father, and she did likely die from a drug overdose. But the defense attorney said the forensic pathologist did not determine the manner of the girl’s death; the jury will have to decide how she died after hearing all the evidence.
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Baker said it’s the girl’s own words in a diary that indicate the manner of death. He told the jurors that Alycia wrote in her diary that if she were to be found dead, it would be the result of a suicide.
The defense attorney called it a tragic death. “But it’s a manner of death that will require a not guilty verdict,” Baker said in court.
Mesiti is accused of murder and charged with more than 40 counts of sexually abusing his daughter, as well as sexual abuse charges involving two other girls. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
In October 2015, Mesiti chose to legally represent himself in his trial. Two years later, Mesiti changed his mind and asked the court to appoint an attorney to represent him. Judge Dawna Reeves appointed Baker and Bob Wildman to defend Mesiti.
The defendant’s trial began Tuesday morning in Stanislaus Superior Court with opening statements from attorneys.
Shelly Walker, Mesiti’s then girlfriend, took a flight to Northern California from her home in Los Angeles to visit Mesiti in Ceres. The prosecutor told the jury that Walker was supposed to pick up Alycia from relatives in San Jose, but the girl’s father called his girlfriend to tell her plans had changed and to drive directly to Ceres.
Rees said Walker will testify about the explanations the defendant gave for the girl’s absence. It was Walker who went to the Ceres Police Department to report Alycia was missing.
The prosecutor said jurors will hear testimony from the owners of the Alexis Court home in Ceres Mesiti rented from them. Rees said the owners will describe the large mound of soil covered with grass they spotted when they evicted Mesiti in late 2006.
Nearly three years later, authorities investigating the girl’s disappearance dug into the backyard and discovered Alycia’s remains wrapped in black plastic material. Rees said the condition of the plastic material prevented authorities from finding any finger prints.
LOS ANGELES CONVICTION
Mesiti was arrested in Los Angeles and later convicted in 2011 of manufacturing methamphetamine. Prosecutors here waited two years before Mesiti’s case in Los Angeles concluded, and he was returned to Stanislaus County to face charges in his daughter’s death.
There was insufficient material underneath one of Alycia’s fingernail to identify DNA traces from a male, according to the prosecutor. She said investigators found on the defendant’s computer a few thousand images and video clips of Mesiti molesting and sexually assaulting his daughter while she was unconscious.
Investigators also discovered on Mesiti’s computer numerous child pornography images and videos.
An autopsy found opiates, amphetamines, morphine and anti-depressant drugs in Alycia’s system. Rees told the jurors that one of Alycia’s friend’s will testify that the defendant’s daughter would drink alcohol and smoke marijuana, but she stayed away from hard drugs.
Baker told jurors the evidence will show that Alycia was a chronic user in the two years leading up to her death, including heroin found in her system. He called her a smart girl, who frequently wrote in her diary. The defense attorney said Alycia once wrote that she “wanted to feel nothing.”
“Experts will testify that if you want to feel nothing, these are the drugs you take,” Baker said.
The diary was found in Mesiti’s Los Angeles home when he was taken into custody. Baker said the diary was brought back to Stanislaus County by Ceres police detectives and placed in the bottom of the box, where it remained for several years before it was handed over to the defense two months before the trial.
Baker promised the jury they will hear what Alycia wrote in her diary. He said the girl’s diary entries will be authenticated in court by her brother, who recognizes her handwriting.
Mesiti’s murder trial is expected to last a few months. He remains in custody in the Stanislaus County Jail.