Fraga guilty on all counts
WORTHINGTON — Josue Fraga sat very still, looking down at the table in front of him.
He made very few movements, except to wipe away tears from behind his glasses as the verdict the jury reached a few minutes before was read:
Guilty on all five charges of murder.
Fraga was convicted of three counts of first-degree murder and two counts of second-degree murder in the death of his 2-year-old niece, Samantha. He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole by Judge David Christensen.
“This was a horrific crime against an innocent 2-year-old child,” Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Bill Klumpp said. “The victim was tortured by the defendant. ... The actions of the defendant turned Lot 25 from a warm and welcoming mobile home to a house of horrors.”
On the morning of March 20, 2008, Samantha died due to severe head injuries. She had bruises on her head, back and legs, her stomach was distended and her autopsy showed she had a two-inch rupture in her stomach. She had injuries and swelling to her genitals and a prolapsed rectum, including injuries two inches inside her anal canal.
When asked if he had anything to say on his own behalf, Fraga quietly said, “No.”
“I can’t think of a more fitting punishment,” said Klumpp, “than for prison for the remainder of his life.”
At 8:45 p.m., Fraga was led back into the Nobles County Jail and the jury was dismissed.
“The state is happy with the result and we think justice was served,” Nobles County Attorney Kathleen Kusz said outside the courtroom.
The jury of seven men and five women began deliberations at 2:31 p.m. Wednesday afternoon. The verdict was reached at 8:03 p.m. and delivered to the court at 8:16 p.m.
Following the verdict, the jury spent another five minutes in the jury room to decide on eight aggravating factors. They came back with a “yes” answer to each question, which ranged from confirming that Samantha was particularly vulnerable due to her age, the defendant used position of authority or trust, the multiple forms of penetration, the infliction of multiple head injuries and the failure to seek prompt medical attention.
“The defense is disappointed in the verdict and we will be talking with our client regarding any further proceedings and appeal,” defense attorney Cecil Naatz said. “I did reserve the right to bring a motion for judgement of acquittal, which is something we will be talking with our client about, also.”
It was the conclusion of a week-and-a-half trial and a more than five-year process from Samantha’s death to the guilty verdict Wednesday night. The prosecution called a total of 42 witnesses and presented its case over six and a half days of testimony. The defense called one witness and took approximately six minutes.
Fraga was also convicted of first-degree murder in May 2009. However, new evidence caused that conviction to be overturned and a new trial ordered.
“Nothing that went on here is going to bring her back,” said Worthington Police Detective Sergeant Kevin Flynn, who testified in the case.
Fraga is convicted with murder in the first degree while committing criminal sexual conduct; murder in the first degree while committing child abuse; murder in the first degree while committing domestic abuse; murder in the second degree while committing criminal sexual conduct; and murder in the second degree while committing assault in the first degree.
In his one-hour, 40-minute closing statement, Klumpp told a story to the jury —a story of abuse, rape and torture. Klumpp said Fraga went into his children’s bedroom and got his daughter out of bed. He took her into the bedroom and tried to do things to her, Klumpp said.
“She summoned up the courage to say no to her father,” Klumpp said. “The price in denying that was that Samantha lost her life.”
Klumpp recalled the daughter’s testimony of how she was taped to a chair and forced to watch as her father allegedly assaulted Samantha. The daughter was let go and went back to bed.
“Eventually, Samantha went silent,” Klumpp said. “At that point, the defendant probably put her back to bed dead next to her brother.”
At 5:35 a.m., Fraga and his wife took Samantha to the hospital. The staff worked on her for nearly 45 minutes, but resuscitation efforts failed and she was pronounced dead at 6:18 a.m.
As Klumpp was outlining each of the five counts of murder against Fraga, he showed pictures of Samantha’s body to the jury.
“If that doesn’t constitute force or violence, nothing does,” Klumpp said.
Testimony from the doctor who performed the autopsy stated the time of Samantha’s death was between 9:50 p.m. and 1:50 a.m., Klumpp said, adding Fraga was the only adult in the house at that time. Assistant Medical Examiner from Ramsey County, Dr. Victor Froloff, said his best guess on time of death was around midnight.
Around midnight, Fraga admitted to seeing Samantha. She woke up and wanted a drink of water. He gave her three glasses, something a “reasonable parent wouldn’t do” if that child was being toilet-trained, Klumpp said.
“The defendant knew something happened to Samantha around midnight and comes up with a story for that,” Klumpp said, adding the story about getting a drink would account for anyone having heard water running.
Now, Klumpp said, the defense was trying to throw Fraga’s son, Josue David “under the bus.” During earlier testimony, Josue David admitted to fondling Samantha, but denied penetrating her.
“Josue David doing that didn’t cause Samantha the kind of terror she felt at the hands of the defendant,” Klumpp said.
As Klumpp was finishing his closing statement, he walked in front of Fraga. He pointed his finger at him and asked the jury for a guilty verdict “because that’s what justice demands.”
Naatz then addressed the jury.
“What you’ve heard in the last week and a half is the tragic last months of a little girl named Miss Samantha Fraga,” Naatz said.
Samantha was born premature and had problems from birth, Naatz outlined, “and her life didn’t get any better.” After her mother died, Samantha was placed with Josue and his wife.
“She began to be abused sexually,” Naatz said. “Not by Josue Fraga, but by her older 13-year-old cousin Josue David Fraga.”
The night before, when Samantha was being given a bath, she complained of her butt hurting.
“Of course it hurt,” Naatz said. “She was being sexually abused by Josue David.”
Naatz spent much of his time contradicting the statements the state had just presented. He told the jury to follow the facts and the “truth is what the facts and the evidence show it to be.”
“You’re not being asked to put the blame on anybody,” Naatz said. “The only question you have is to find Josue Fraga guilty or not guilty.”