It wasn't just that the Pasadena woman pushed her 7-year-old daughter out of a car at 45 mph that makes her guilty of child abuse, a Circuit Court jury was told yesterday.
It's what she did afterward: she kept driving, a prosecutor said.
"This woman threw her daughter out of her car while she was going at 45 miles an hour. And what makes this crime all the more inhumane was that after doing that, she didn't even stop," Assistant State's Attorney Robert Bittman told jurors.
Donna Marie Candella, on trial for child abuse, told jurors that her daughter jumped, that she was only going about 25 mph at the time and that she didn't stop because she knew her daughter was unhurt and was safe in the arms of her grandmother.
She said she didn't want to argue with her mother, who lived nearby and had taken in the child after her hasty exit.
Mrs. Candella, 26, of the 8200 block of Raynor Blvd. was charged with child abuse April 5 after she allegedly threw Mandy Candella out of her 1979 Chevette while driving north in the 8800 block of Fort Smallwood Road about 3:30 p.m.
Ashley Candella, 5, the defendant's other daughter, was in the car at the time, but was unhurt.
Mandy was treated for cuts and bruises at North Arundel Hospital and released, Mr. Bittman said.
Both children are now living with their grandmother and step-grandfather, he said.
In a brief opening statement yesterday, defense attorney B. Craig Wald asked jurors to keep an open mind as they listened to the prosecution's case, which always is presented first.
The trial, being heard before Judge Martin A. Wolff, began with testimony from one witness who said she was dumbstruck when she saw the little girl "flying" out of the car and hitting the pavement.
"This little girl came out of that car airborne, and went over head first and continued to tumble," said Linda McMillion, a mother of three small children who choked back tears as she spoke.
Mrs. McMillion said she stopped her Plymouth Voyager, picked Mandy up from the side of the road and carried her to the nearest house. It turned out to be the small, single-family home in the 8800 block of Fort Smallwood Road that Mrs. Candella was sharing at the time with her children and her mother, Florence Humphreys.
After delivering Mandy to Mrs. Humphreys, Mrs. McMillion drove back out on the highway and searched unsuccessfully for Mrs. Candella's white Chevette in nearby shopping center and convenience store parking lots, she testified.
The state's evidence included color photographs of Mandy's bloodied head and legs, which were distributed to the jury of six men and six women during Mrs. McMillion's testimony.
Under cross examination, Mrs. McMillion acknowledged that she didn't actually see the child being thrown from the car, but only saw the door open and the child tumbling out.
Mr. Bittman said Mrs. Candella was arrested about five hours later near her home and that she admitted to police she drank six beers earlier. She said she thought her daughter was all right because as she drove away from the scene, she had seen the child walking toward her grandmother's house.
She also admitted to police that she didn't stop because she didn't want to go to jail, according to testimony.
"That is the statement of someone with a guilty conscience," he said.
But Mrs. Candella yesterday denied saying that. She said she was trying to surrender to police when she was stopped and arrested by officers near her home.
Mrs. Candella, a counter clerk at a Mountain Road pizza shop who dropped out of Chesapeake High School after completing ninth grade, testified that she had picked up Mandy at her school bus stop that day.
But Mandy jumped out near the grandmother's house when she learned they were driving to Penn Station in Baltimore to see off Mrs. Candella's boyfriend, the mother testified.
"When she opened the car door, I reached to grab for her, but it was too late," she said.
Mrs. Candella, who kept her eyes fixed to the rail in front of her as she testified, said she drove back to where her daughter had jumped out.
But she kept going when she saw that by then her daughter was with her mother and appeared unhurt.
"I didn't want to get in an argument with my mother," she said. "Me and my mother don't get along, and I knew she'd be accusing me and giving me a hard time if I went back there."
The case is expected to go to the jury today.