Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Day two of Torres murder trial

Posted By on Wed, Nov 9, 2016 at 5:30 PM

click to enlarge MAURICIO TORRES: An officer escorts the defendant into the Benton County Circuit Courthouse on Tuesday, Nov. 8. - KRIS JOHNSON
  • Kris Johnson
  • MAURICIO TORRES: An officer escorts the defendant into the Benton County Circuit Courthouse on Tuesday, Nov. 8.

Prosecutors in Benton County continued to build their case against Mauricio Torres, a Bella Vista man accused of killing his 6-year-old son, Isaiah Torres, in March 2015. Torres is charged with capital murder and first-degree battery in connection to his son’s death. The prosecution is seeking the death penalty. Torres has pleaded not guilty.

Captain Tim Cook, lead investigator at the Bella Vista Police Department, took the witness stand again for the prosecution, and remained there all morning and afternoon. He testified that he had obtained a copy of the Arkansas Department of Human Services’ report filed by Peri Heffernan, a former teacher at Ambassadors for Christ Academy, where Isaiah Torres was in kindergarten before his parents opted to home school the child. Heffernan called DHS because of bruises she saw on Isaiah’s body. Cook testified that after Heffernan filed the report, DHS talked with the school principal.

The prosecution then played the bulk of Captain Cook’s second interview with Mauricio Torres, conducted on April 7, 2015, the day after Torres was arrested. Torres insisted Isaiah’s death was an accident.

“An accident means it’s not intentional,” Torres said. He also questioned his wife’s loyalty to him. “Betrayed,” Torres said. “She’s thrown me under the bus. Well you know what, she’s gonna have it too.”

Cathy Torres, the defendant's wife, has also been charged with capital murder and first-degree battery. She will be tried separately.

Throughout most of the interview, Torres said he could not betray his wife. He said they both were responsible for Isaiah’s death.

“Because he was under our care, you know?” said Torres. “Everything that we’ve done has always been a team as far as I’m concerned.”

Torres admitted that “it happened” inside the family’s camping trailer near the door, but denied knowing what object was inserted into his son’s rectum.

Torres said several times that he was contemplating suicide, but over the course of the roughly three and a half hour interview he showed little sorrow about the death of his son. He admitted that the “inappropriate beatings” — as Captain Cook referred to them — began about two and a half years before Isaiah’s death, but denied knowing what caused the 50 puncture wounds in Isaiah’s head, and said the chemical burns on the boy’s back occurred after Isaiah fell while playing with chemicals.

After a recess, the prosecution played a second interview Tim Cook conducted with Torres on April 7, 2015, during which Torres provides a confession. He said on the morning of March 29, 2015, Isaiah was eating cake without permission. As punishment, his father took a stick that he said was often used to spank the child, stuck the stick into the child’s butt and made him stand in the corner and perform squats.

“I didn’t want to deal with him and I wanted to have control,” Torres said.

Torres said his wife, Cathy, yelled at Isaiah to do the squats faster and then pushed him. Isaiah fell down, which is when internal injuries are suspected to have occurred.

Medics arrived at the Torres home on March 29, 2015 to find Isaiah Torres lying on the living room floor, unresponsive. In a police affidavit, the first responders said they saw "heavy bruising and ... puncture wounds all about his body." Dr. Franklin Mayhue at the Mercy Bella Vista emergency room tried and failed to revive the child and found "signs of blunt trauma to his head, trunk and extremities" and blood in his rectum, consistent with penetration by a hard object.

As the recorded confession played for the jury, Mauricio Torres sat in the courtroom looking down.

“My life isn’t more precious than Isaiah’s,” Torres said in the recorded interview. “I have no more right to breath than he did, and I’m at peace now knowing that I came out clean however ugly the truth may be.”

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