Second trial begins for woman accused of murdering her baby
Vanesa Patricio Cruz, now 31, stands accused of murdering her daughter Jocelin by beating her over the head with a remote control.
Cruz's first trial, held in May, ended in a mistrial after a bailiff brought jurors a ruler during deliberations. Because the ruler had not been vetted by the court, “with great reluctance” Judge Burke McCahill declared a mistrial.
On Aug. 13, 2005, Cruz and her boyfriend, Jalacio De La Cruz, pounded on the the door of a South Riding rescue center soliciting help for Cruz's 20-month-old daughter who was unconscious. The little girl was taken to Inova Fair Oaks Hospital and pronounced dead.
While first suspected to be heat related, autopsy reports indicated trauma to the brain and bruises on the skull. Ultimately, no one was arrested for the case in the years following the incident.
“Knowing a crime was committed and knowing who committed it are two different things,” Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney Jason Faw said in his opening statement. Faw is joined by Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Nicole Wittmann in prosecuting the case.
In 2011, Det. Wayne Promisel joined the cold case unit and reopened the case. Promisel brought both Cruz and De La Cruz in for questioning in March of 2012, and after denying her involvement 17 times during her questioning, Cruz tearfully confessed to hitting her daughter over the head with a remote control. During his opening statement, Faw said the blows set off a “ticking time bomb” in Jocelin's head, ultimately leading to her death.
But the defense, composed of public defenders Kelly King and Daniel Griffith, argue that the accident stemmed from a fall and that Cruz's confession is inauthentic -- brought on by calculated police maneuvers and a mother overcome by emotion.
“[Cruz] will tell you that at some point, she told them what they wanted to hear,” King said. “Not because she did it, but because she wanted the interrogation to be over.”
In day one of the trial, jurors -- currently 10 men and four women -- heard from firefighters from the South Riding rescue center, who first saw Jocelin.
Both Amanda Smith and Mark Wynkoop testified that the child was brought in limp and unconscious. Though her clothes were damp, Wynkoop would describe the infant as “hot, dry and damp.”
The trial is scheduled to continue through Friday, with jury deliberation to follow.
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