SOUTH BEND — Three years ago, a local couple rushed their unresponsive young daughter to Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center.
What doctors found on Maya Escobedo’s 2-year-old body were injuries so severe they could not possibly have been accidental, they said.
She was rushed into surgery, but efforts to save her were in vain. She died the following day, on Dec. 3, 2008.
This week, the girl’s father, 25-year-old Valentin Escobedo, is on trial for murder in connection with the girl’s death. He also faces one count of child neglect and one count of battery.
His wife, 33-year-old Kristina Byers-Escobedo, is serving a 30-year prison sentence for child neglect, for which she was convicted in January 2010.
Byers-Escobedo was the state’s first witness on Tuesday, and she cried throughout much of her testimony.
She described Dec. 2, 2008, when she returned home from a movie with her friends around 11 p.m. and found Escobedo sitting in the living room, holding Maya in a pink blanket.
She noticed the girl had a fresh scrapes on her face. Escobedo told her she had been vomiting.
"I started stroking her face and it seemed a little swollen," Escobedo said, crying. "I was worried she wasn’t moving, responding, or holding her arms out for me."
"What did you say?" chief deputy prosecutor Ken Cotter asked.
"I said, ‘What happened? She’s not moving. … We need to take her to the hospital. Something is wrong.’"
She said Escobedo told her he did not know what happened, and that he put her in her crib to go to bed and then later heard her vomiting.
The couple woke up their 5-year-old son and drove to Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center. Maya was later taken by ambulance to Memorial Hospital, given the severity of her injuries.
As police began investigating after the girl’s death, they learned she had suffered injuries throughout her life. An autopsy later revealed liver and pancreas trauma.
The children’s babysitter, who also testified Tuesday, explained three separate occasions where she noticed injuries on Maya.
In the summer of 2008, she said she noticed Maya was hobbling. The following October, Maya had a large bruise on her left eye, and in November, she appeared to be limping again. She also noticed marks on the girl’s thighs. On each occasion, the babysitter notified Byers-Escobedo.
Byers-Escobedo said when she questioned her husband, he would attribute the injuries to Maya, saying she was injured in the crib, or fell in the hallway.
One juror appeared to be wiping tears from her eyes as Byers-Escobedo explained the injuries.
Jurors were shown close-up images of Maya from the hospital, where she was seen with her eyes closed, medical tubes coming out of her mouth. The photos showed marks on her cheeks, which appeared swollen, and a thick red scrape on her chin.
They were also shown pictures of the girl’s bedroom, with pink curtains, yellow-painted walls, a white crib, and a teddy bear on the floor.
Escobedo was arrested Dec. 3, the day of Maya’s death. He has been held in the St. Joseph County Jail on a $100,000 bond ever since, awaiting trial. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has also placed a "hold" on him as it determines his citizenship status.
The 12-member jury, three men and nine women, was selected on Monday, and opening statements began Tuesday.
The trial is expected to last through next week.
Staff writer Mary Kate Malone: