Son, ex-wife testify in third day of Fraga trial
WORTHINGTON — Marisela Fraga testified Wednesday she was scared of her ex-husband because of the way he treated her.
Taking the stand Wednesday in the third day of the retrial of Josue Fraga, who allegedly killed his 2-year-old niece, Samantha, Marisela said her ex-husband would hit her and not allow her to have many outside contacts.
“I didn’t have any friends,” Marisela said through an interpreter. “I couldn’t talk to anyone. He used to tell me if I talked to friends, they were going to tell me things.”
Marisela, who has now divorced Fraga, told of repeated physical abuse.
“While you were living with your husband, were there ever times he hit or struck you?” Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Bill Klump asked.
“Yes,” Marisela answered, adding she was hit about one time per month. She also said he accused her of having sex with other men.
“One of the times, he grabbed me by the neck and threw me to the floor,” Marisela said.
She said, however, that she did not see Fraga hit her children.
Later in the day, that was contradicted.
“If you had done something wrong, how would your father punish you?” Klumpp asked the Fragas’ middle son.
“We would either have to face the wall on our knees or get hit with a belt,” the son answered.
“How many times would you be hit with the belt?” Klumpp asked.
“About six,” the son said, who added it felt “bad” and “hurt.”
Fraga’s two youngest sons took the stand to finish Wednesday’s testimony.
The youngest, who is now 11 years old, said he never saw anyone hurt Samantha or any of his other siblings. But when asked what his father’s name was, he responded, “I can’t remember.”
“Has it been a long time since you’ve seen him?” Klumpp asked.
“Yes,” the boy said.
It was during the boy’s time on the stand that Fraga showed the most emotion — an apparent smile followed by a few tears — as his son gave testimony. As the middle son was leaving, he and Fraga appeared to lock eyes as the boy was walking out of the courtroom.
The middle son was the final witness Wednesday. He was deliberate with his answers, often taking a few moments before speaking.
He said he would be punished if something was dropped, or if they got into arguments. At one point, the son said his father did more than just hit him with a belt.
“He put his hands around my neck,” the son said, adding, “he squeezed.”
While he couldn’t recall what happened to make his father do such things, he said that was the only time he was strangled. But “several times” he was hit with a belt — as many as six times each incident.
When questioned by public defender Pamela King, the boy said he hadn’t told anyone else about the abuse. Klumpp later asked him why.
“I was scared,” he said.
On the morning of Samantha’s death, Marisela said she checked on the children before they went to bed.
“Everyone seemed to be sleeping,” she said.
Marisela said she woke up because Fraga was talking to her.
“Something was happening with Samantha,” she said Fraga told her that night.
Fraga then gave Samantha to Marisela.
“I didn’t know what to do,” she said. “I gave her a kiss.”
She didn’t check to see what was wrong, but Fraga told her they needed to go to the hospital. Marisela said she put a clean diaper on Samantha, but didn’t notice any injuries to the child.
“I did not check anything,” she said.
But before she went to work the previous afternoon, Marisela said she did not see any injuries on Samantha.
Later in her questioning, Marisela said she had previously witnessed Samantha and her brother fighting.
“They used to play and fight,” she said. “They played like children do.”
The morning began with Worthington Police Detective Dave Hoffman finishing his testimony from Tuesday afternoon as the first of 10 people to take the stand Wednesday.
Two more medical staff testified on Wednesday. Dr. Bharat Patel had examined Samantha and her brother in 2007 and reported nothing unusual.
Registered Nurse Lynn Dierks saw the two children on March 4, 2008, when Fraga brought the children in for their immunizations.
“There were no abnormalities or discoloration to any of the skin that was exposed,” Dierks reported of Samantha.
Three current or former JBS employees testified to Marisela’s whereabouts on the morning of Samantha’s death.
According to Luis Cota, who works in payroll, Marisela punched in at 3:31 p.m. on March 19 and out at 2:31 a.m. March 20. Two separate supervisors at the plant at that time testified that Marisela was working when required and came back from breaks promptly.
“She wasn’t missing, she was there,” Fernando Flores said. “She was a quiet lady; a very good employee. For some reason, she didn’t talk to anybody.”
Amber Morrighan, who was working at St. Cloud Children’s Home, also testified. She was there at the same time Fraga’s daughter wrote a letter outlining years of sexual abuse.
The trial continues today. Fraga’s daughter and oldest son, Josue David, are expected to take the witness stand.