Second week of Fraga trial begins Monday
WORTHINGTON — A total of 34 witnesses have taken the stand so far in the re-trial of Josue Fraga, who is charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 2-year-old niece, Samantha.
It took nearly five full days to select a jury for this trial. Jury selection began on Sept. 9, with the trial beginning on Sept. 16.
After one full week of testimony, the state has just a few witnesses left heading into today.
Among those left to testify are more agents from the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA). Special Agent Derek Woodford, who investigates violent crimes for the BCA, is the state’s final witness. He could take the stand today or early Tuesday.
Another key witness remaining is Samuel Fraga, who is Josue’s brother and Samantha’s father.
Samuel is expected to testify about abuse allegedly received from Josue when they were young. When his children were taken from him, Samuel requested they be placed with Josue.
Josue Fraga was initially convicted in May 2009 for Samantha’s death. However, new evidence has come to light since, and Senior Judge Timothy Connell granted a new trial in mid-2012 — a little more than a year after the first trial ended.
That new evidence was presented during testimony the first week. It included the oldest son admitting to sexually touching Samantha — something he denied in the first trial.
“At that time, I thought I’d get in trouble for it,” he said.
It also included a letter Fraga’s daughter wrote outlining sexual abuse from her father.
In Thursday’s session, the oldest son admitted to fondling both Samantha and her brother, but denied any further action. He said he did not have anything to do with her death.
Earlier on Thursday, Fraga’s daughter took the stand. She told of repeated sexual abuse from the time she was a little girl. She said her father tried to do things to her the night of Samantha’s death. When she refused, he taped her to a chair in the bathroom and made her watch as he put Samantha’s head under water, she testified Thursday.
It was March 20, 2008, when 2-year-old Samantha was brought into the Worthington Regional Hospital’s emergency room a little after 5:30 a.m. After nearly 45 minutes of revival efforts, she was pronounced dead at 6:18 a.m.
Fraga and his family spent most of the day at Prairie Justice Center, being interviewed as to the events of that morning and the previous night.
In an interview — which was played for the jury — Fraga told Worthington Detective Dave Hoffman he had seen Samantha’s brother jump on her while he was up using the bathroom. From there, his wife put a diaper on Samantha and they rushed to the hospital.
Ramsey County Assistant Medical Examiner Dr. Victor Froloff said during his Monday testimony Samantha had been dead many hours before. He said because her core temperature measured 84 degrees at the hospital, she had died somewhere between 8 p.m. and 1:30 a.m. the night before.
A multitude of doctors and medical personnel have testified during the first week. Some have testified about the events in the Worthington emergency room, while others have talked about the visits of Samantha and her brother before that morning. Social workers have testified about Fraga’s biological children and their evaluations following their cousin’s death.
Representatives from the Worthington Police Department and the BCA have testified as to their reactions that night.
All of Fraga’s children testified, as did his wife — who said he wouldn’t allow her to have friends or talk to anyone.
After the state rests, the defense will have an opportunity to make its case. Once concluded, the case will go to the jury for deliberations and a verdict. In total, Fraga is charged with three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder.
Community Content Coordinator Aaron Hagen may be reached at 376-7323. For updates throughout the trial, follow him on Twitter.