Family members take stand in Fraga murder trial's third day
WORTHINGTON -- Josue Fraga fought tears of his own as he watched his daughter cry on the stand during testimony Friday in Nobles County District Court.
Fraga, accused of murdering his 2-year-old niece Samantha while sexually molesting her in March 2008, has been in the Nobles County Jail for more than a year. He is charged with first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder.
His daughter, who began to cry when asked how she felt about Samantha's death, told the jury she did not remember ever seeing her father change Samantha's diaper or bathe her, and said she was the one who gave the little girl a bath the evening before Samantha died.
During that bath, his daughter said Samantha complained that her bottom hurt, so she looked and didn't see anything, she said.
"Do you know what happened to Samantha?" asked Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Bill Klumpp.
"No," she replied quietly.
All four of Fraga's children testified Friday, from the oldest son down to the littlest boy.
The oldest son told the jury he liked having Samantha and her brother live with their family and that all the siblings got along well.
When he woke up the morning of March 20, the oldest son saw that Samantha was not in her bed, he testified. When he realized his parents were also gone, he tried to call his father's cell phone but didn't get an answer.
"Were you worried?" asked Klumpp.
"After the call, yes," the oldest son replied. "I thought something bad had happened."
He explained to the jury that he had decided to send the other kids to school and stay home with the 3-year-old, but then police arrived and brought them all to the Prairie Justice Center.
He said he couldn't remember if Samantha had bruises when he saw her the night before.
The oldest son was shocked, he said, when authorities told him Samantha was dead.
The oldest son admitted his father called him later, after he and his siblings had been brought to a foster home, and asked him to tell authorities he had seen Samantha's brother jump on her.
"Did you see him jump on her?" Klumpp asked.
"No," the oldest son replied.
The oldest son did call authorities and say he had seen something, but later admitted his father had asked him to make that statement. When asked why he had gone along with his father's story, the oldest son said, "I trust my dad to tell me the truth."
"How do you feel about having to come and testify at his trial?" Klumpp asked.
"I'm not sure," the oldest son replied.
Both Fraga's oldest son and daughter easily pointed out their father when asked if they saw him in the court room, but his second-eldest son said he didn't see him.
The youngest boy simply shrugged his little shoulders when asked if he knew what had happened to Samantha.
Testimony was also heard from Fraga's wife, Marisela, with the aid of an interpreter.
She thought they had received $700 to $800 per month in aid for the care of her brother-in-law's children after they were placed in the home by family services. When asked if Fraga was close to any of his family members, Marisela said he was not close to any of them.
The children all got along well, but she said Samantha and her brother would argue and fight almost every day. Marisela was in the process of trying to toilet train Samantha, she said, but a diaper was still put on the child at night sometimes -- either by herself or, if she was not home, by her daughter. Her husband, she stated, did not change diapers.
After being picked up from work around 2:30 a.m. by her husband, Marisela said she did, at one point, stop in the hallway of their mobile home and look in on the kids, who were all sleeping.
They went to bed, but her husband woke her up later and said something had happened to Samantha. Her husband, she said, was carrying the little girl up the hallway.
"What did you do?" Klumpp asked.
"I took the kid, hugged her, embraced her, gave her a kiss," she said through an interpreter.
"What was her body temperature?" Klumpp asked.
"I don't know," she replied.
Marisela explained that she put the child on her bed, slid her pants down a little and put a diaper on the little girl, then pulled the pants back up without ever taking them off completely.
"What did her bottom look like?" Klumpp asked.
"I didn't check her out," she answered.
Marisela said Samantha's eyes were open and not blinking, and she wasn't making any noise.
"Was she breathing?" Klumpp asked.
"I don't know," she replied.
"Can you, of your own knowledge, tell us how Samantha got hurt so badly she died," Klumpp asked.
"No, I don't know," Marisela said.
She acknowledged she had started court proceedings to get her children, who are still in foster care, back home. She hasn't spoken to her husband in a month, she said. When he was first jailed, she visited twice a week and spoke to him on the phone every day.
"Is there a reason you haven't spoken to him for a month?" asked defense attorney Cecil Naatz.
"They advised me that if I want my kids back, that was best," she said. "To stop talking to my husband."
Testimony continues Monday.