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Fraga trial begins today

WORTHINGTON -- The trial of alleged murderer Josue Fraga begins today with jury selection, which is expected to last several days.

Fraga was charged in March 2008 with first-degree murder after the death of his 2-year-old niece Samantha. According to the autopsy, the girl died as a result of traumatic head injury, multiple contusions, traumatic injury of the external sexual organs and rectum, peritonitis and rupture of the stomach.

Fraga was initially charged with second-degree murder and first-degree criminal sexual conduct, but a grand jury indicted him on first-degree murder on May 30, 2008. The three charges he now faces are first-degree murder - criminal sexual conduct, second-degree murder - criminal sexual conduct and second-degree murder - first-degree assault.

Samantha was brought into the emergency room by her aunt and uncle before 6 a.m. March 20, 2008. The Fragas told staff they heard fighting in the children's bedroom and when they looked inside saw Samantha's 3-year-old brother jump on Samantha.

Later, Fraga's wife told a detective she was awakened by her husband, who said there was a problem with Samantha. She went into the bedroom where six children slept and found Fraga holding the little girl.

She stated she turned on the light and saw the child was not wearing a diaper, so she diapered the child before they left for the ER. When shown photographs of the trauma to the child that had been taken by ER staff, the woman said Samantha had not looked like that when she put the diaper on the child.

When the doctor who did the autopsy was asked if he could estimate a time of death based on the child's body temperature when she was brought to the hospital, the doctor concluded she was dead before 2:30 a.m. The time of death is significant in that Fraga was allegedly the only adult in the home prior to 2:30 a.m., which is the time his wife got off work.

Of the six children in the house, Fraga and his wife Maricela were the parents of four, and the legal guardians of the 2- and 3-year-old, who are the children of one of Fraga brothers. After Samantha's death, all of the children were removed from the household. Fraga was arrested March 26 while driving around Adrian with his wife and a relative. It is believed he was looking for his children at the time.

A variety of motions, memorandums and documents have been filed in the case, including a memorandum regarding whether the state or the public defender's office should be responsible for paying for a copy of the grand jury transcript at an estimated cost of $3,000. Assistant Attorney General Bill Klumpp filed the motion, attaching a report from a Worthington detective that said he had located documents during a search warrant showing wage earnings for Fraga for recent consecutive years were of more than $60,000, more then $70,000 and more than $80,000.

Public defender Cecil Naatz had unsuccessfully asked the judge in January to dismiss the charges after DNA results found semen on Samantha's diaper that allegedly excluded Fraga as a contributor. Klumpp offered a counter-argument that the lack of semen on specific areas of the child's body had prompted the prosecution to believe she was sexually assaulted with an object.

Another motion argued at one point was the admissibility of a statement made by one of Fraga's children regarding possible sexual abuse.

Jury selection could take the rest of the week because the prospective jurors may be questioned individually about their knowledge of the case or any witnesses slated to testify. Fifth Judicial District Judge Timothy Connell will preside over the trial, which is scheduled to last up to three weeks.