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Fraga murder trial continues

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news Worthington, 56187

Worthington Minnesota 300 11th Street / P.O. Box 639 56187

WORTHINGTON -- Jury members watched a videotaped interview between Josue Fraga and Worthington Police Detective Dave Hoffman Thursday during the second day of testimony in Fraga's murder trial.

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Fraga is accused of murdering his 2-year-old niece Samantha while sexually molesting her in March 2008. He faces one count of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder in the child's death.

In the video, Hoffman had Fraga in a small interview room at the law enforcement center. He asked Fraga several times if he needed anything while waiting.

"I need my kids," Fraga replied more than once.

Fraga appeared distraught in the video, at times clutching his stomach and rocking while he waited for Hoffman to return from questioning his wife.

Fraga had told Hoffman that Samantha and her 3-year-old brother tended to keep to themselves because they were still getting used to living with their aunt, uncle and cousins. He said Samantha and her brother had healthy appetites, didn't sleep much and were very aggressive toward each other.

In the early morning hours on March 20, Fraga said he heard the little boy say, "No, Samantha," so he went to check on them and found the boy jumping on Samantha, who was on the floor. He grabbed the girl up off the floor and called for his wife, and they immediately headed to the emergency room, he stated.

During the questioning, Fraga again asked for his children and was told they were being taken care of by family services.

"You're making me feel like you are blaming us," Fraga commented.

Hoffman testified that the children were moved to a foster home later that day, and that evening he received a phone call from Fraga's oldest son.

The son told Hoffman he had just remembered seeing the little boy jump on Samantha, but under further questioning he admitted he had spoken by phone with his father, who had told him to tell law enforcement the lie.

The second day of trial testimony started with EMT Wayne Landhuis on the stand. He told the jury he had just come back from an ambulance run when he saw two people carrying what looked to be a bundle of blankets in the ER door.

"The baby just stopped breathing," the man reportedly told Landhuis.

Landhuis took the child and rushed back to the emergency treatment area.

"I could tell she was cool to the touch," he stated. "I thought that was rather strange, because wrapped in all the blankets she should have been warm."

Landhuis said he unwrapped the child from the blankets and began CPR.

Unable to remember exactly who did what task in the ER under cross-examination, Landhuis told defense attorney Cecil Naatz his main concern was trying to get a life back.

"You don't want to be putting children in a body bag," he had told Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Bill Klumpp earlier. "You do everything you can to beat the odds."

Joan Johnson, the night supervisor at the hospital, said her initial impression of the child's condition was that she was dead.

"She was very dead," Johnson emphasized. "She was ice cold to the touch, a morbid color."

The low body temperature of 84 degrees and the fixed eyes of Samantha led the registered nurse to believe she had been dead for awhile, she said.

"I did not think she was revivable," Johnson explained. "She was really beyond saving."

While taking a second rectal temperature, Johnson got her first real look at the damage to the little girl's bottom.

"I was mortified," Johnson said. "It looked like a firecracker had gone off on her rectum."

Johnson was the one who notified law enforcement of the suspicious death of a child.

Pediatrician Dr. Lisa Gerdes testified that a child with a prolapsed rectum would be very uncomfortable and cry. One with a ruptured stomach would scream, she stated.

Samantha's apparent physical injuries, Gerdes said, included a swollen and bruised forehead, bruised knees and the distended abdomen. When an oral gastric tube was used to relieve what the medical staff thought was air in the stomach, the distension did not improve.

In her opinion, she said, the injuries to the child were not caused immediately before the child was brought to the hospital.

Another of the eight people who testified Thursday was Worthington Police Sgt. Tim Gaul, who went with a representative of family services to collect the other five children from the Fraga residence shortly after Samantha was declared dead. He said he purposely did not give them much information -- just that he was there to take them to the law enforcement center.

The oldest child, Fraga's 13-year-old son, acted very anxious, Gaul said, and was pacing and nervous.

The other children didn't seem overly concerned that a policeman had just walked into their house.

"The two little boys were lost in cartoons on television," he explained. "It was actually strange. They didn't care I was there."

Testimony continues today.

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