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Immigrant faces 60-year sentence in molestation case

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

A jury member stood up to see the 17-month-old girl in the wheelchair. A few jurors smiled.

Eligio Chia-Duran, the Mexican man accused of assaulting, battering and molesting the child last Christmas Day, made no sign that he saw the baby. Sitting next to his defense attorney with his black hair slicked back, Chia-Duran's face remained impassive throughout the trial, Tuesday. The illegal immigrant speaks only broken English. An older man whispered translations to him as the trial proceeded.

The prosecutions' final witness, on the second day of trial, Tuesday, was the girl's foster mother. The woman told the jury the girl, who is not being named, is paralyzed from the abdomen down, and will have to use specialized wheelchairs her entire life.

"She feels from the belly button up," said the woman, who is adopting the girl, and asked not to be named because it is a closed adoption. "From the belly down, [the girl] feels nothing," the adoptive mother said. "Right now, she's little and she doesn't know that she's disabled. She's happy. When she's older, it will be a lot harder."

When the 17-month-old girl wheeled out of the courtroom, she looked at the jury and said, "Bye bye."

According to Child Abuse Expert, Jordan Greenbam, the little girl was brought to the hospital in December 2006, with more than 30 bruises and scrapes covering her body. She had broken ribs, a broken arm, a skull fracture and a broken back. The girl, then 8 months old, was bleeding in her right eye, and in her brain. She had been vaginally penetrated, Greenbam said.

Testifying as an expert witness, Greenbam said that of the more than 1,000 child abuse cases she has seen at Children's Health Care of Atlanta, this little girl's case is one of the worst."I think she was severely abused on more than one occasion," Greenbam said.

Forest Park Police became aware of the girl's condition when a doctor called them, on Dec. 25, and reported the child was hurt and was bleeding in her diaper.

Detectives Kelvin Jackson and Alberto Cruz said Chia-Duran, who was living with the girl's mother, claimed the girl had hurt herself falling off the bed, and may have gotten the bruises from falling asleep on a toy. The bed was two and a half feet off the ground, and could not have caused the girl's injuries, Greenbam said.

According to the mother, 19-year-old Fabiola Delgado Mata, who previously pled guilty to cruelty to children, the injuries occurred when Mata drove to Wal Mart, trying to buy diapers. While at the store, Mata reportedly received a call from Chia-Duran. Speaking through a translator, Mata said, "He didn't tell me anything, just that the girl had fallen off the bed."

Mata had thought he was going to take care of her and her child, she said, and she didn't think he would hurt either of them. "The time he was with me, he always treated my daughter nicely, but I don't know how he was when I wasn't there," she said.

Chia-Duran's attorney, Stephen Mackie, pointed out that she entered a plea of guilty to cruelty to children, in the case, and the child was taken from her. "You were her mother, weren't you?" he said.

"Si," she said, and the translator said, "Yes."

"And you're not her mother anymore, are you?" Mackie said.

"No," she said.

"Ultimately, you were responsible for her," Mackie said.

Prosecuting attorney John Turner objected to the statement, and Judge Matthew Simmons upheld the objection. Mata wiped her eyes, and brushed hair out of her face.

Mata and Chia-Duran had been living together, she said, since the girl's father left, while she was pregnant. Chia-Duran was a friend of the father, and promised to take care of the woman and her child. She testified that she didn't know, at the time, that he had a wife and three children in Mexico.

She admitted she was concerned about Chia-Duran taking care of the girl. She had told him, she said, not to give the baby baths. "I never let him bathe her," Mata said. "I didn't like that. I didn't like him bathing her and touching her private parts."

Mata described Chia-Duran as a good boyfriend, but said he did get jealous.

Two of the man's cell mates testified that Chia-Duran got very, very jealous, and said that motivated him to hurt the infant. Speaking broken English and using a Spanish-English dictionary, Chia-Duran allegedly told his two cell mates that he had hurt his girlfriend's baby because he was mad at the woman, and thought she was cheating on him.

Corey Wilshire -- a 31-year-old felon convicted of theft by receiving, forgery, burglary and breaking and entering -- testified that Chia-Duran said he, "was feeling, like, [he was] used, because he was sitting around watching the baby while she was out."

According to Wilshire, Chia-Duran admitted to throwing the baby around and molesting her, justifying it by saying, "she was going to be just like her mother anyway."

Wilshire and the other inmate are not receiving any deals from the district attorney's office or the police, in exchange for their testimony. Both men said they came forward because they were horrified at the alleged crimes, and because Chia-Duran told them he wasn't going to be convicted. "I felt bad about it," Wilshire said. "I didn't think it was right, and I didn't want him beating the case."

The defense's strategy, on Tuesday, consisted mostly of questioning the character of the witnesses. The prosecution and the defense both rested their cases in the afternoon. Closing arguments are expected to begin at 9 a.m. If convicted of all the charges, Chia-Duran faces a maximum possible sentence of 60 years in prison.