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Closing arguments under way in Fraga trial

Josue Fraga

WORTHINGTON -- The defense's case in the Josue Fraga trial took less than 45 minutes to present and involved three witnesses, two of whom had testified for the prosecution.

Fraga, charged with first-degree murder in the death of his 2-year-old niece Samantha, chose not to testify on his own behalf. He sat quietly as the first witness, investigator Jesus Tobias, took the stand.

Tobias said he had been asked by the defense to go to the home of Marisela Fraga, Josue's wife, and look for the missing handle of a squeegee found in the Fraga's vehicle.

The vehicle had been searched and the squeegee with the missing handle had been taken into evidence at the time if Samantha's death in March 2008. Au-thorities believe the handle may have been used to molest Samantha.

Tobias said he went to the Fraga trailer last week and told Marisela the handle was in a blue bucket in the front closet. She was just leaving the house, he said, and did not let him inside to look, but later called and said she had found the item he was looking for.

"So you went to the trailer but did not search?" Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Bill Klumpp asked.

"Correct," Tobias replied.

Klumpp asked Tobias if he had ever seen the handle or had any knowledge of where exactly it was found. Tobias admitted he had not and did not.

Marisela was then called back to the stand. She testified that after visiting Tobias at his office later that day, she went home and found the handle, then put it in her van.

She said she had no idea how long the handle had been in a plastic container in the front closet of her house.

"Have you seen your husband use the squeegee on his car?" defense attorney Cecil Naatz asked.

"Yes," she replied.

"With or without the handle?" he asked.

"Without," she said.

During cross-examination, Klumpp asked Marisela if she remembered meeting with him and Nobles County Attorney Gordon Moore several weeks ago. She said she did.

"Do you remember the photographs I showed you?" Klumpp asked, handing her pictures of the squeegee.

"No, you did not show me those," she said.

"Did we talk about the squeegee without the handle?" he asked.

"No," she stated.

She then testified that she had been called and asked to come to court, not subpoenaed as before.

The defense then recalled Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) Special Agent Derek Woodford, who said that he and Worthington Det. Sgt. Kevin Flynn had gone to Marisela's trailer Thursday to ask about the handle that had been found.

Woodford said Marisela went to her van and got the handle, which was in a plastic bag, and gave it to the officers.

"Where you with Mr. Moore, Mrs. Fraga and me on April 16 when we showed Mrs. Fraga the pictures of the squeegee?" Klumpp asked.

"Yes," Woodford replied.

"And did we discuss with her the squeegee without the handle?" Klumpp asked.

"Yes," Woodford said again.

Woodford said they found a larger squeegee in the trailer when they did their initial search, but it was not in the bucket as was shown in a recent photo.

Klumpp pointed out that the handle presented as evidence was bent, with the bar code worn off, but it fit in the head of the squeegee.

Then he grabbed the squeegee head from the pile of evidence.

"This head looks almost new, but the handle looks much older, doesn't it?" he asked Woodford.

"Yes, it does," Woodford replied.

Closing arguments were scheduled to begin at 12:30 p.m. today.