A Drew County jury of six men and six women was seated Tuesday morning to hear evidence in Victoria Pedraza’s sentencing trial. Pedraza, 23, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison for permitting the abuse that led to her 2-year-old daughter’s death. Her husband, Daniel Pedraza, was sentenced last month to life in prison for the beating death of Aubriana Coke.
In his opening statement, 10th Judicial District Deputy Prosecutor Crews Puryear outlined the events that led to the child’s death and told the jurors that it was Victoria Pedraza who devised the story to explain the child’s injuries before calling 911. She told paramedics the child fell from a dock onto rocks at Lake Monticello.
In his opening statement, Pedraza’s attorney Joe Tobler, of Little Rock, said Daniel Pedraza brainwashed his wife and stepdaughter, Aubriana Coke, creating a “new reality where they were dogs,” and wouldn’t allow Victoria call 911 until she came up with a story to explain the child’s injuries.
An emergency medical technician testified that upon seeing the child’s injuries she suggested that the hospital contact a criminal investigator because the injuries were not consistent with a fall from a dock.
Dr. Stephen Erickson, the chief deputy medical examiner, testified that a single blow to the abdomen caused Aubriana’s death but she had multiple injuries in various stages of healing.
The blow that ended her life caused her abdomen and all the structures below the liver against her spine and cause the first part of the small intestine to be ripped in half. When that happened, acid, bile, food and bacteria started draining into a sterile area.
During four separate interviews, Victoria Pedraza told four different versions of the events that led to her daughter’s death, according to testimony by Tim Nichols, a criminal investigator with the Drew County Sheriff’s Office.
Nichols, who was on the stand about 45 minutes, described the Pedraza’s home as very clean and orderly but there were items laying about that had been used the previous evening to “heal” Aubriana: an egg, a tomato, and a prayer candle, along with items soiled with vomit. Read more about that in this story from Daniel Pedraza’s murder trial.
Following Nichols’ testimony, the state rested its case.
Defense witnesses throughout the afternoon testified that Victoria and Aubriana’s personality changed after Victoria got involved with Daniel Pedraza. They became less sociable, were timid, and relatives and friends began to see bruises on them.
One witness described Victoria as a good mother. He said she only disciplined her verbally and never raised her voice while doing so. Another witness said Victoria typically would count to 10 and Aubriana would behave herself. She said Victoria gave the child whatever she wanted.
Victoria’s grandmother testified that while the couple was living in a camper on her property, Daniel would not allow Aubriana to play with a puppy that he bought Victoria. She said the child was afraid of Daniel.
During the grandmother’s testimony, Circuit Judge Bynum Gibson ordered a spectator to be removed from the courtroom for laughing. The spectator apparently was laughing at the grandmother’s tone of voice when she responded “Oh, yes” when asked if she knew Daniel Pedraza.
Drew County Detention Center administrator Susan Potts, who was called to the stand by the defense, testified that Victoria’s buttocks and legs were bruised when she was booked into the jail following her arrest. A large photo of Victoria’s bruised buttocks was displayed before the jury while defense witnesses testified.
The trial resumes Wednesday morning.