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State rests case in retrial of mom charged in death of 3-year-old daughter

Published On: Oct 10 2012 06:02:07 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 07 2014 12:20:35 PM CST
EL PASO, Texas -

The state rested its case in the retrial of 30-year-old Yara Perez Wednesday.

Perez has been charged with murder in the death of her daughter, 3-year-old Jacqueline Gonzalez.

Perez's then boyfriend, Francisco Castaneda, was found guilty of Jackie's death in 2010 and received life in prison.

Jackie was found dead in a bin stored in a car trunk at Perez's apartment on Nov. 19, 2007.

After a mistrial in June, Perez is now on her second trial for capital murder and injury to a child. She pleaded not guilty.

The prosecution continued bringing witnesses to the stand Wednesday, including El Paso police detectives who dealt with the case.

The defense began building their claim that Perez suffered from battered woman's syndrome.

According to one detective who interviewed Perez following the discovery of Jackie's body, Perez said she had noticed Jackie was bruised earlier in the day but was too afraid to push Castaneda on how the injuries happened.

The witness said Perez told him she was fearful of Castaneda and worried he may kill her.

The defense then claimed Perez was controlled by Castaneda and would do whatever she was told.

Following the first detective, the case agent took the stand, saying that the bin where Jackie was found only had fingerprints from Castaneda.

The detective recalled an interaction between Castaneda and Perez when she was brought in for questioning.

"I'm sorry I'm putting you through all of this," the detective, Arturo Ruiz, said he heard Castaneda say.

Ruiz said Perez then said something like "tell them the truth."

Ruiz later added that he thought Castaneda shook his head "no".

The prosecution also called an expert in DNA analysis, who confirmed for the prosecution that a blanket found near Jackie's body had DNA that appeared to be that of Perez.

The defense countered that testimony by noting that DNA can easily be transferred to items when two people live in the same home.

In the afternoon, the Chief Medical Examiner for El Paso County was called to the stand.

Dr. Juan Contin affirmed the cause of Jackie's death was blunt force trauma to the abdomen.

During Contin's time at the stand, graphic photos of the autopsy were shown to the jury. 

The response was seen throughout the courtroom.

Yara Perez cried for a moment, and looked away.

Members of the jury winced at times, and drew their hands to the mouths as they looked at the bruised body of the little girl.

Contin's testimony became heated when he told prosecution that the injuries sustained by Jackie were painful and would kill a toddler within two hours.

The prosecution asked if Perez had called for help for her daughter, would the outcome have been different.

"In theory, yes. If she goes to the emergency room, they can save her," Contin said.

The defense latched on to this statement.

They pointed out that in a prior comment, Contin told officials the injuries would have killed the child in about an hour.

Contin speedily told Joe Spencer, the defense attorney, he had made a "wild guess."

He tried to clarify by saying he was not sure of the exact time.

The defense took Contin's weak response as a chance to note that Contin has been in-and-out of the chief medical examiner position for decades, and is not a forensic pediatric pathologist.

Once the state rested, defense began bringing their witnesses to the stand.

The defense began with two El Paso police detectives who directly dealt with Abigail Castaneda.

During Tuesday's trial, the defense had questioned Abigail Castaneda's testimony, suggesting she changed her story from her statement.

The two detectives confirmed for the defense that there were issues involving Abigail Castaneda's statements.

Specifically, the detectives said their was question as to whether Castaneda had entered Perez's apartment and seen an injured Jackie, or not.

After the detectives spoke, psychologist Dr. James Schutte took the stand to describe battered women's syndrome, how it affects women, and how they fall into a cycle.

Specifically, this testimony was used to support the defense's claim that Perez suffered from battered women's syndrome.

According to the defense, Perez was powerless to Francisco Castaneda. 

They suggested the guilt of Jackie's death lies solely in his hands.

The court wrapped Wednesday evening, and will pick back up Thursday morning.

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