Mother on trial for death of 4-year-old girl

September 13, 2012 4:03:43 PM PDT
Disturbing testimony and graphic pictures took center stage Thursday in the trial of a mother accused of allowing her young daughter to die from abuse and neglect. Little Betsabeth Sandoval was just four years old when police found her unconscious last June, her body showing deep cuts, bruises and fractures. On Thursday her mother was forced to hear prosecutors describe how her child died while they say she did nothing about it.

In a dramatic demonstration, the prosecutor wrapped a t-shirt around a stick and showed the court how she says four-year-old Betsabeth died. The girl's mother, Maciel Sandoval, sat in the courtroom in tears as prosecutors showed photos of the injuries.

The assistant medical examiner testified, "It's not just a bruise on the outside of the skin. It's substantial damage in the connected tissues underneath the skin. For that reason it's not consistent with a simple fall from a standing position."

Police say they found the little girl unconscious and hurt at her home last June.

Police say Sandoval denied responsibility saying, "Defendant Sandoval stated that the complainant was very accident prone, fell often, and was also a very angry four-year-old."

Both Sandoval and her partner have been charged with injury to a child by omission. Prosecutors haven't accused either woman of actually attacking the child.

"They don't want to have to prove who did it because they're both going to point the fingers at each other and say you did it or somebody else did it," KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy explained. "To avoid the finder pointing, they say, basically, we don't care who did it. You had a responsibility and duty under law to protect that child and you didn't."

Androphy says the penalty is the same for physically abusing your child and allowing abuse to happen.

"The law doesn't differentiate because you have a vulnerable young child," he said. "This is a very difficult case, one of the most difficult cases to try."

The defense rested without calling any witnesses. Closing arguments are expected to be heard Friday morning. If the mother is found guilty, she could face up to 99 years in prison.

After this trial, Sandoval's partner is expected to go to trial.


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