State, defense rest in Fraga trial
WORTHINGTON — Sitting on the witness stand across the room from his brother Tuesday, Samuel Fraga was asked about issues he and his brother had growing up.
“He sexually abused me,” Samuel said. “He put his private part in my back.”
It was the seventh day of the re-trial of Josue Fraga, who is charged with murder in the death of his 2-year-old niece, Samantha — Samuel’s daughter.
Midway through the seventh day, the state called its final witness, Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) Agent Derek Woodford. By late in the afternoon — and after six-and-a-half days of testimony and 42 witnesses — the state rested at 2:39 p.m.
After a short recess, the defense began at 2:56 p.m. Defense attorney Cecil Naatz called David Hoffman, Worthington Police Detective. After a few questions, the defense rested at 3:02 p.m.
Judge David Christensen, the defense and the state were left working on jury instructions as the jury was dismissed until this morning.
Before the defense’s witness, Naatz stated to the court that Josue will not testify in this trial. He also did not testify in the previous trial.
“This is a decision you’ve made freely without any threats or promises to you?” Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Bill Klumpp asked.
“Yes sir,” Josue answered.
Closing statements will begin today’s proceedings before it goes to the jury for deliberation. The jury was told it will be sequestered — meaning it will not be allowed to leave, even for the night — until a verdict is reached. Christensen told them meals and, if necessary, hotel rooms would be provided.
As Samuel took the stand, he told of how his wife, Rosario, had died Jan. 19, 2007. After her death, he began using drugs, he said. His girlfriend at the time was also using drugs, and as a result, his children were taken away from him.
It was then Samuel wrote a letter saying he wanted his children to live with his brother. His oldest son stayed with his sister, but Samantha and her brother were placed with Josue.
Samuel was evicted from his residence in Worthington and lived anywhere he could find — including a storage unit or alley — because he had no source of income. He testified that he moved to Texas.
Samuel contacted Josue to allow his children to join him, but Josue responded he couldn’t because “they were placed legally in his custody.”
In later testimony, Samuel said that made him upset and angry. He went and talked to a social worker in Texas to tell her about the abuse as a child.
“It was a couple of times, I don’t remember how many,” Samuel testified Tuesday. “He told me not to say anything.”
He said Josue often times would physically try to keep him quiet.
“I told my mom — she told me to stop saying that, it wasn’t true,” Samuel said. It was later stated Samuel and Josue’s older brother and father each spent time in jail for touching or molesting other family members.
When asked why he would leave his children in the custody of someone who had done such things as a child, Samuel said he thought Josue had changed.
“He was older and grown up and had a family of his own,” Samuel said. “As far as I could see, he had a lot of change. I figured if he could take care of his own kids, he could take care of mine.”
Samuel didn’t learn about his daughter’s death until his nephew told him about it — six days after Samantha had died.
After testimony from retired Nobles County Sheriff’s Deputy Brian McCarthy — who arrested Josue in Adrian on March 26, 2008 — Woodford took the stand.
Senior Special Agent Woodford, who testified he had worked in approximately 25 homicides in his career, arrived in Worthington at 8:30 a.m. March 20 — the day of Samantha’s death.
His interview of Josue — which lasted 1 hour, 40 minutes — was played in court.
Josue said the younger children went to bed the night before around 9 or 9:30 p.m. and Samantha “looked fine.”
She got up once in the night and he gave her three glasses of water, he said, and sent her back to bed. After picking up his wife from work, Josue went to bed.
“I don’t know what time it was, 5 or 5:30, I had to go to the restroom,” Josue said in the interview. “I go to the restroom and I hear ‘No, Samantha, No.’
“I looked into the room and I saw (her brother) jumping on Samantha and she wasn’t in bed, she was on the floor.”
He said he was “stunned and shocked” at what he saw, picked her up and took her to the hospital. Josue said she felt loose and cold.
“She had her eyes opened when I carried her, I assumed she was just hurt,” Josue said.
Woodford showed Josue pictures of Samantha’s body taken a few hours earlier from the hospital.
“It wasn’t like that when we got there,” he said.
Woodford then showed him a picture of her bottom.
“That’s bad,” Josue said. “Why are you showing me all these pictures?”
Woodford explained he was determining what happened to Samantha.
“What happened to her?” he asked.“What happened to Samantha?”
“I don’t know what you want me to say,” Josue responded.
Toward the end of the interview, Josue told Woodford, “You make me feel like you are accusing me of something.”
For the defense, Hoffman testified about his interview with Josue’s daughter, who couldn’t recall during her testimony last week which part of her body was taped to the chair during the alleged attack. He testified it was on her arms “a little bit” and somewhere around her bicep area, according to a transcript from his interview with her in 2011.
The morning began with BCA forensic scientist Alyssa Bance finishing her testimony. In all, Bance said, 74 items were sent to the lab, with some of them containing more than one item.
Before the day’s proceedings, a juror was excused due a death in the family. That leaves the jury at 12, exactly the number it needs to deliberate.