AUSTIN (KXAN) - Testimony in the murder trial of Areli Escobar resumed Thursday afternoon with the 16-year-old sister of the murder victim taking the witness stand. Dania, along with her mother, discovered the cold and stiff body of Bianca Maldonado after they returned from working a paper delivery route.
The homicide happened on May 31, 2009.
Later Thursday afternoon, the jury viewed photographs of the murder scene and of the victim's body.
During her testimony, Dania said she opened the apartment door on the day of the murder, took tamales they'd bought into the kitchen. She looked into the living room and saw the sofa cushions and walls covered in blood. By then, her mother headed toward a body that was lying on the floor. Dania said her mom checked the body for a pulse. Bianca's 1-year-old son was face down and unconscious on a rug close to Bianca's feet, Dania testified. She said her mother picked up the child and handed him to her.
Next, a paramedic testified about what he saw when he got to the apartment, responding to the 911 emergency call with a fellow paramedic.
Austin-Travis County Emergency Medical Services paramedic Eric Chandler said he saw a young Hispanic girl holding a baby and crying for help. Chandler took the infant, who was unresponsive and covered with dried blood. He wiped away the blood to look for injuries. He handed the child to his partner to examine while he went inside and saw a girl's body on the floor. He said he checked for a pulse, found none, and felt that the body was cold and stiff.
Chandler said the baby had some bruising around the face and a superficial wound to one of the infant's hands. The child was taken to Dell Children's Hospital, he said. The child was treated and released from the hospital for injuries that were not life-threatening.
After Chandler's testimony, Austin police Officer Amanda Wiese was called to testify and explained the layout of the apartment complex and talked about the roads surrounding it.
Austin Police Department homicide detective David Fugitt said in his testimony he got to the crime scene at 8:20 that morning. Details he gave described how he was told a woman's purse was in a sink in a bathroom with water running over it. Fugitt said he saw spots of blood nearby. He explained to the courtroom how a homicide scene is processed for evidence.
After an afternoon recess, Fugitt showed the jury crime scene photos. Displayed were pictures of the outside of the building and close-up shots of the door locks. He said there did not appear to be signs of forced entry because the threshold and locks were intact.
Photos of the inside of the apartment show several long strands of hair matted in blood along with another that shows bloodstains on an interior door. They also show the living room scene with seat cushions strewn all over and the body lying on the blood-stained floor. Some items seen near the body were a pair of dumbbells, clothing hanger, grocery bag and a bottle of baby lotion.
Other pictures show there is a lot of blood on the backrest of one of the couches along with a purse sitting on the same couch. The cushions were all removed.
Fugitt explained that blood found on the wall is splattered, meaning it hit the wall with velocity as if someone was being beaten or shot. He indicated a white hoodie and shorts belonging to Maldonado were found on the ground and covered with blood. A pair of women's underwear was also found beneath the shorts on the ground.
The jury was also shown photographs of Maldonado's body, which was lying between a sofa and loveseat, clad in only a bra.
There are several stab wounds to her cheek, neck, head, hand and arm. The wounds to the arm suggest she was trying to fend off her attacker.
A closer shot of the body shows Maldonado had a major gash on the side of her head and the cheek.
Because of the blood patterns on the floor, the detective thinks although Maldonado was found laying face down, she may have been bleeding while on her back.
A frontal picture of Maldonado's face showed more gashes and the detective said there are signs of severe trauma, gashing and torture.
The jury looked on stoically as the detective cycled through the photos.
Maldonado's family sat in the front row watching with no visible signs of emotion at this difficult part of the trial.
Defense attorney Steve Brittain cross-examined Fugitt, asking questions about the condition of the apartment's windows. The detective said they were all locked from the inside and showed no sign of a break-in.
Brittain also asked for specifics about how someone could enter the door if it was both said to be locked and also unlocked. He also questioned Fugitt about the process of crime scene investigation before dismissing the witness.
Escobar, accused of killing 17-year-old Bianca Maldonado two years ago, pleaded not guilty at the start of his capital murder trial Thursday morning.
Jacqueline Hernandez was the second person to testify on Thursday. The victim's mother described
her inability to process what was in front of her the day of the murder -- when she arrived home from her three-hour newspaper route to find the living room torn up and a body of lying on the floor.
Hernandez delivers papers for the Austin-American Statesman and also works a second job at a Jack-in-the-Box.
She said she took her other daughter, Dania, with her to deliver the newspaper because of the larger Sunday-edition papers. It is the only day of the week she regularly took Dania with her. She said after the papers were delivered, the pair stopped and bought some tamales to take home and join her other daughter, Bianca, who had been sleeping when they left to work the paper route.
When they got home, she said she called Bianca's name after seeing the body on the floor, not thinking it was her. When she got no response, she bent over and touched her to see if the woman on the floor was alive and saw it was Bianca.
Hernandez said the body felt cold, and then she saw Maldonado's 1-year-old son lying in the living room next to her on the floor. She said she became very scared because she thought the baby was also dead. Hernandez said the apartment door has three locks and she is confident she locked one but cannot remember if she locked the other two. One of the locks can only be locked from the inside.
The defense declined to ask anything following the prosecution's questioning.
9-1-1 call center worker Christina Pena testified before Hernandez. Guided with a transcription, jurors heard the emergency call that came in at 6:48 a.m. the day of the murder. On the call, two women were heard crying and screaming frantically as Pena tries to get an address. Pena struggled to understand what the caller was saying but managed to make out, "My daughter is on the floor, and I don't know what happened."
Pena told the caller that help was on the way but asked what happened, to which the caller said, "I don't know, I don't know, I don't know."
The caller then said, "The body is cold, and I think she is dead."
Police arrested Escobar, 32, two days after they found Bianca Maldonado raped and stabbed to death in her apartment. Maldonado's child was in the apartment when she was killed.
At 10:23 a.m. defense attorney Steve Brittain followed the prosecution's opening arguments by saying there is no question there was a horrific and brutal murder that happened. Still, Brittain continued to say that there is no logical motive connecting Escobar to Maldonado since the two seemingly did not know each other.
Brittain said eyewitnesses said Escobar's injuries came after being jumped by a gang of people.
Though Travis County Assistant District Attorney Allison Wetzel told jurors that science and DNA will show Escobar is the person responsible for the crime, Brittain told the jury that use of DNA evidence is a better science for exclusion.
Still, Wetzel earlier told jurors that blood inside the apartment and on the clothing will connect Escobar to Maldonado's murder.
Wetzel opened the trial around 9:45 a.m. by telling the courtroom that Maldonado and Escobar were complete strangers -- saying the two had never seen or talked to each other before the night of the murder.
"This is the man who raped and murdered this young girl," said Wetzel, pointing to Escobar.
The trial began with a picture of Maldonado, with Wetzel telling the jury the victim was a student at LBJ High School and also the mother of a 1-year-old baby named Cesar.
Wetzel said it is unbelieveable someone could do to a human being what was done to Maldonado -- saying the teen mother was alive and suffered every injury she sustained.
During opening arguments, Wetzel then showed a picture of Bianca's mother and began to talk about the members of Maldonado's family and what they were doing the night and morning Maldonado was killed.
She said Hernandez and one of her other daughters, Dania, got up early at 2:45 a.m. to begin their newspaper delivery job. Maldonado and her baby were sleeping when they left their apartment.
When they returned to the apartment, they could see immediately something was wrong. The living room was in disarray with pillow cushions from couches strewn about.
On the living room floor, Maldonado was laying face down wearing only a bra, and she was covered in blood with her legs spread apart. Blood covered the living room, and Cesar was also on the floor face down. He was not moving.
A picture of apartment 2922 at 7000 Decker Lane was shown for the jury, and Wetzel told them they would hear in detail how crime scene investigators combed the apartment looking for evidence.
Zoe Lopez's picture was shown on the courtroom monitor, someone Wetzel said would be a key witness in this trial.
Lopez was Escobar's girlfriend, and she is expected to testify about what happened the night of the murder -- including phone calls made to Escobar.
According to Wetzel, Lopez attempted to call Escobar four times that morning.
At 4:12 a.m. the day of the murder, after three failed calls, a fourth
call finally connected. Lopez said she heard screaming and moaning that went on several minutes.
Lopez thought Escobar was having sex with another woman and answered the call to let her hear it happening and to try and anger her.
However, that thought changed when Lopez heard from Escobar's family that Escobar showed up at his mother's home with bloody clothes. Lopez said she then began to suspect Escobar raped someone . The suspicion grew a day later when Lopez said she learned from news reports that a girl who lived just a few blocks away was raped and killed.
Zoe gave permission to investigators, giving them her account of the events and access to the phone she used to make the phone call to Escobar.
The jury is expected to hear Escobar's interview with investigators. District Judge Mike Lynch is hearing the case. Prosecutors are pushing for the death penalty.
Follow live tweets from KXAN News reporter Chris Sadeghi, who is in the courtroom covering the trial.
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