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Arkansas man’s retrial under way in sodomy killing of 6-year-old son for eating cake without asking

Arkansas man’s retrial under way in sodomy killing of 6-year-old son for eating cake without asking

Arkansas man faces death sentence in sodomy killing of 6-year-old son

Arkansas man’s retrial under way in sodomy killing of 6-year-old son for eating cake without asking

A man accused of killing his 6-year-old son in 2015 by sodomizing him with a stick and forcing him to do squats is on trial for the second time in an Arkansas courtroom.

Mauricio Alejandro Torres, 50, of Bella Vista, is charged with capital murder and first-degree battery, according to Benton County Jail records. He faces the death penalty if convicted.

Opening statements in the case began Thursday. On Friday, jurors heard from the emergency room doctor who tried to save Mauricio “Isaiah” Torres’s life when he was brought to Mercy Bella Vista Medical Center the night of March 29, 2015.

“He had wounds all over his body,” Dr. Franklin Mayhue said, according to the Northwest Arkansas Democrat Gazette. “This was an extreme picture of a child who was not only dead, but dead from a bizarre situation.”

Mayhue also testified about the lack of reaction Torres and his wife, Cathy Lynn Torres, had when he told them their son had died.

“There was an absence of a normal grieving response from parents that lost a child,” Mayhue said.

Two of Isaiah Torres’ former teachers testified Thursday afternoon about the concerns they had for his welfare during the 2013-2014 school year. Peri Heffernan, his kindergarten teacher, and music teacher Hannah Paul both told of seeing multiple large bruises on the boy’s body.

The women also testified that Isaiah stole other children’s lunches and scavenged food from the trash, the Democrat Gazette reported. Heffernan took photos of his bruises and reported her concerns to the state child abuse hotline.

No one ever responded to the report, the teachers testified. The following school year, Isaiah did not return to the school because his parents began homeschooling him.

Paul described what Isaiah was like when he was in her class.

“He had a great smile and contagious joy,” Paul said, according to the newspaper. “He was a great kid.”

Mauricio Torres was found guilty Nov. 15, 2016, of both charges in the death of his son, but his conviction was later overturned. According to the Democrat Gazette, a medical examiner testified at the first trial that Isaiah died of a bacterial infection he developed after being sodomized during a family vacation in Missouri.

Isaiah died early the morning of March 30 after the family had returned home.

Cathy Torres pleaded guilty to capital murder and battery in March 2017 and was sentenced to serve life in prison without parole. Though she didn’t testify at her husband’s first trial, she is on the prosecution’s list of potential witnesses the second time around, the Democrat Gazette reported.

“As part of her plea agreement, Cathy Torres agreed to provide truthful testimony if needed,” Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Nathan Smith said, according to the newspaper. “Pursuant to the court order, we filed a witness list including everyone we may need to call at trial so that the defendant will be on notice of all potential witnesses. The actual decision of which witnesses to call will be made closer to trial as the case unfolds.”

Jail records show Cathy Torres, 48, was transferred last week to the Benton County Jail for the trial. She is usually housed at the Arkansas Department of Corrections’ McPherson Women’s Unit near Newport, according to prison records.

Editor’s note: The following portion of the story contains graphic details that may be disturbing to some readers. 

According to court records, Mauricio Torres and his wife, Cathy Torres, were camping March 29, 2015, with Isaiah and their two daughters when they awoke to find Isaiah had eaten some cake without their permission.

“For the offense of eating cake without permission, Isaiah was punished by inserting a stick into his rectum and forcing him to do squats,” the court documents say.

In his confession, Mauricio Torres described Isaiah’s punishment to police by saying that spanking the boy never worked.

“I just put the stick in his bottom again, you know. Like you said, that power. And I said, ‘In the corner, you know, up and down,’” Torres told investigators.

Cathy Torres became angry that Isaiah was “not squatting fast enough,” so she pushed him down.

“This drove the stick deeper inside of Isaiah’s body and pierced his rectum,” the documents say.

Benton County Jail
Cathy Torres, 48, of Bella Vista, Ark., is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder and battery in the 2015 death of her son, Mauricio "Isaiah" Torres. The 6-year-old died of a bacterial infection after she and his father sodomized him with a stick for eating cake without permission while on a family vacation. (Benton County Jail)

Arkansas man’s retrial under way in sodomy killing of 6-year-old son for eating cake without asking

Photo Credit: Benton County Jail
Cathy Torres, 48, of Bella Vista, Ark., is serving a life sentence for first-degree murder and battery in the 2015 death of her son, Mauricio "Isaiah" Torres. The 6-year-old died of a bacterial infection after she and his father sodomized him with a stick for eating cake without permission while on a family vacation. (Benton County Jail)

Over the next several hours, Isaiah became ill. By the time they got home that night, he was unresponsive.

“(Mauricio) Torres did not seek medical care for Isaiah until nearly midnight. When emergency responders arrived, Isaiah was in cardiac arrest,” the records say. “He was transported to a hospital in Benton County, Arkansas, but soon died.”

Isaiah’s official cause of death was acute fecal purulent peritonitis, or a bacterial infection of the abdominal cavity that occurred after feces entered through his torn rectum. The feces and subsequent pus that developed killed the boy.

The forensic pathologist who conducted his autopsy also found extensive injuries on the boy’s body, in various stages of healing, and describing his condition as a “textbook case of chronic child abuse,” according to the records.

“Thick scar tissue lined the interior of Isaiah’s skull cap from repeated, significant and traumatic head injuries,” the court documents say. “Isaiah’s nose had been broken, flattened and deformed. His teeth had been forcibly removed. The injuries on his back included severe bruising, chemical burns and multiple lacerations resembling whip marks. His hands and arms were covered in defensive wounds. And, shortly before his death, Isaiah sustained substantial and traumatic blows to his head and a blunt force injury encompassing his chest, back and abdomen.”

The boy’s sister testified at their father’s trial that Isaiah was regularly beaten with a cable and with the stick that caused his death. The chemical burns he suffered were caused by his being forced to bathe with bleach, she said.

“Torres had removed Isaiah’s teeth with pliers as punishment for speaking ill of him,” the documents say. “He had forced Isaiah to consume his feces and urine. Moreover, Isaiah’s blood was found spattered throughout the Bella Vista home and the Missouri camper.”

Jurors found Mauricio Torres guilty of both charges and sentenced him to death.

Both his conviction and death sentence were overturned last year after his attorneys successfully argued that the judge erred in denying him a directed verdict on one of two theories of the crime: that the murder either took place during the course of a rape or as the result of child abuse.

The underlying crime in either scenario was necessary for a death sentence to apply in Torres’ case.

“First, the circuit court erred because the alleged acts did not meet the elements of rape as rape was defined in Missouri when the alleged offense occurred,” the Arkansas Supreme Court ruled. “Second, the alleged acts did not occur in Arkansas; therefore, Arkansas law could not have applied.”

The defense also argued that, because the rape felony murder case was legally insufficient, and it was unclear if the jury convicted Torres on the basis of rape or child abuse, his conviction should be overturned and the case remanded for a new trial.

The justices found that, while death was the consequence of the rape, it was not an element of the crime. The state, they said, could not prove that an element of the underlying crime took place in Arkansas, and prosecutors could not establish that Arkansas had jurisdiction to accuse Torres of raping his son.

“Because of this, the rape felony murder is insufficient, which in turn taints the entire verdict because the jury completed a general verdict form,” the court ruled. “Stated differently … because of the general-verdict-form formulation, we are unable to determine which formula -- rape felony murder or child abuse-murder -- the jury based its conviction on.”

Torres’ conviction and sentence were overturned by a 4-3 vote.

Read the Arkansas Supreme Court ruling below. Warning: The document contains graphic details of Isaiah Torres’ death. 

Mauricio Alejandro Torres Court Ruling by National Content Desk on Scribd

Smith, who also prosecuted Torres the first time, spoke out against the high court’s ruling to 5News in Fayetteville last year.

“The vote of one justice invalidated the will of 12 jurors in Benton County and forces the victim’s family and the survivors to go through this again, so it’s a hard day for them, and it was hard to tell them that, and it’s just unfortunate,” Smith said, according to the news station.

One of the jurors in Torres’ first trial also discussed the proceedings and the difficulties the jury faced in determining whether or not to ask for a man’s execution.

“We all agreed on it, and before we even walked out of that room to get the bailiff and tell them we made a decision, we all sat there and prayed about our decision, and I think that speaks volumes for itself, because a lot of people weren’t religious, but we all came together and said, ‘We need to pray about this decision,’” Kacie Alverson said.

She said the two-week trial was something she will never forget.

“Those pictures are forever ingrained in my mind. Watching the autopsy and all that stuff is forever ingrained in my mind,” Alverson told 5News.

Read More


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Specifically, the letter requests Jones “take immediate action to cease the sale of such unapproved and unauthorized products for the mitigation, prevention, treatment, diagnosis, or cure of COVID-19.” US coronavirus deaths hit 16,690, total cases top 466K Published 12:47 a.m. EDT April 10: The number of novel coronavirus cases in the United States surpassed 466,000 early Friday morning across all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. According to researchers at Johns Hopkins University, there are at least 466,033 confirmed U.S. cases of the virus, which have resulted in at least 16,690 deaths. U.S. cases now more than triple the 153,222 reported in Spain and the 143,626 confirmed in Italy. Of the confirmed U.S. deaths, 7,067 – or roughly 42% of the nationwide total – have occurred in New York, 1,709 in New Jersey, 1,076 in Michigan, 702 in Louisiana and 551 in California. In terms of diagnosed cases, New York remains the hardest hit with at least 161,799 confirmed cases – more than three times the next-closest state – followed by New Jersey with 51,027, Michigan with 21,504 and California with 19,950. Five other states have now confirmed at least 16,000 novel coronavirus cases each, including: • Massachusetts: 18,941, resulting in 503 deaths • Pennsylvania: 18,633, resulting in 365 deaths • Louisiana: 18,283, resulting in 702 deaths • Florida: 16,826, resulting in 371 deaths • Illinois: 16,422, resulting in 528 deaths Meanwhile, Georgia and Texas each has confirmed at least 10,000 novel coronavirus infections; Connecticut and Washington state each has confirmed at least 9,000 cases; Indiana, Colorado and Maryland each has confirmed at least 6,000 cases; Ohio, Tennessee and Virginia each has confirmed at least 4,000 cases; North Carolina, Missouri and Arizona each has confirmed at least 3,000 cases; and Wisconsin, Alabama, South Carolina, Nevada and Mississippi each has confirmed at least 2,000 cases. Click here to see CNN’s state-by-state breakdown. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
  • More people will be eating Easter dinner at home this year, and many grocery stores will be open if you need last-minute items. Store hours vary this year, and your local store may not be open as usual. Below is a list of stores that will be open and those that have announced they will be closed. Check with your local store for hours. Grocery stores open on Easter Albertsons The Fresh Market Kroger Safeway Walmart Whole Foods Winn-Dixie Grocery stores closed on Easter Aldi Costco Publix Sam's Club Target Trader Joe’s
  • A mother and her son with Down syndrome in New Jersey died of the coronavirus a week apart. Carolyn Martins-Reitz died in late March. About a week later, her son, Thomas Martins, died on his 30th birthday, WPIX reported.'They were just very, very close. He was her world and she the same for him,” Dana Regan, director of a special needs program, told WPIX. Regan had known Carolyn and Thomas for more than 10 years. “He was an avid dancer -- loved music. He was everybody’s friend,” Regan told WPIX. “Thomas was a very upbeat, happy-go-lucky kind of guy -- always smiling, super friendly.” Thomas’s stepfather and sister are dealing with both losses. A GoFundMe account was set up to help pay funeral and medical costs.
  • The family of a Chicago-area Walmart employee who died of COVID-19 has filed a lawsuit against the retail giant, citing negligence in keeping its employees protected against the coronavirus. Wando Evans, 51, is one of two employees to die of the virus at the same Walmart store in Evergreen Park, a village about 15 miles south of Chicago. He died March 25 and his co-worker, Phillip Thomas, 48, died four days later. WGN-TV reported that Evans had worked as an overnight stocker and maintenance associate for Walmart for 15 years. Thomas was a nine-year veteran worker. A medical examiner found that both men died of COVID-19 complications. According to the Chicago Tribune, obesity was a contributing factor in Evans’ death. “When we initially took on this case, we were trying to help the Evans family get answers,” attorney Tony Kalogerakos said in a statement on Facebook. “We didn't realize this would be the first wrongful death lawsuit in the country for disregarding COVID. “We now have Walmart employees from around the country thanking us because Walmart finally stopped ignoring their employee requests, and are attempting to follow CDC measures to protect its essential workers. Although it took two deaths at the same Walmart, it's never too late to start implementing safe procedures.” A Walmart spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit, saying company officials “take the issue seriously and will respond with the court once we have been served with the complaint,” NBC Chicago reported. The lawsuit filed Monday on behalf of Evans’ brother, Toney Evans, alleges willful and wanton misconduct, reckless disregard and gross negligence, the Tribune reported. According to the newspaper, the suit alleges store management ignored Evans’ complaints that he was experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, as were other employees of the store. Reuters reported that the suit claims Walmart also hired new workers in a rushed process that failed to screen them for COVID-19 symptoms. Evans was sent home sick March 23, according to his family. He was found dead in his home two days later. The family’s timeline conflicts with that of Walmart officials, who said in a statement following the deaths that neither Evans nor Thomas had been in the store for at least a week before each man died, according to USA Today. “We are heartbroken to learn of the passing of two associates at our Evergreen Park store, and we are mourning along with their families,” Walmart officials told the newspaper last week. The court filing states Walmart management did not properly clean the store or promote adequate social distancing guidelines prior to Evans’ and Thomas’ deaths, NBC Chicago reported. Evans’ family also claims managers failed to inform employees that some workers had symptoms. The document alleges Evans and other employees were not provided with personal protective equipment, like masks, gloves or sanitizer, the news station said. The lawsuit states those failures violated the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the Tribune reported. Kalogerakos said in a statement obtained by the newspaper that he has asked OSHA to investigate how Walmart handled the situation. “At a minimum, (managers) were responsible for notifying store workers that a colleague had symptoms consistent with COVID-19, providing their employees personal protective equipment such as masks and latex gloves, implementing social distancing and sending exposed employees’ home until cleared by medical professionals,” the attorney said. NBC Chicago reported that the deaths of Evans and Thomas prompted Walmart to hire a third-party company to clean and sanitize all “high-touch surfaces” in the Evergreen Park store, including the front entrances, carts, registers and bathrooms. The retailer also began implementing stricter safeguards in all its stores. “Additionally, we have taken steps across the country to protect our associates and customers, including additional cleaning measures, installing sneeze guards at registers, placing social distancing decals on the floors and limiting the number of customers in a store at a given time,” spokesman Randy Hargrove said in a statement. “We’ll continue to take steps, such as screening associates, conducting temperature checks, and providing masks and gloves for associates that want to use them.” Daryl Bell, a friend of Evans, told NBC Chicago last week that he was saddened to learn about the death of his friend, who he described as a religious man with a good heart. Evans was engaged to be married, he said. “I’m devastated because I know I won’t get a chance to say goodbye to him,” Bell told the news station.
  • A homeowner fatally shot one home invader and beat up another Saturday, investigators said. Arlington Heights police released doorbell video of two men wearing masks and gloves approaching a home around 2 p.m., the Daily Herald reported. In the video, Bradley J. Finnan, 39, of Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Larry D. Brodacz, 58, of Buffalo Grove, open a screen door and knock. When the homeowner answers, a fight starts off-camera. The homeowner is again seen in video pushing Finnan out the door and to the ground. The homeowner hits Finnan multiple times until he escapes, tripping and falling as he runs away. Brodacz was fatally shot during the struggle inside the house. Finnan was charged with murder and home invasion, the Daily Herald reported. A state statute allows defendants to be charged with murder if a person dies during the commission of a felony. Police said the homeowner was defending himself and charges are not likely to be filed.