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Graphic testimony emerges in Exeter case

Friday, August 24, 2012

The lengthy process of determining whether an accused child killer should stand trial continued Friday with testimony so graphic it drove many of the victim's family members out the courtroom.

Detectives discussed the evidence they collected in the case against Christopher Cheary. Cheary is accused of killing three-year-old Sophia Acosta in Exeter in May 2011.

The evidence heard in court Friday afternoon was too disturbing for the victim's family members. Some of them had to step out as detectives detailed what they saw and what they found out about what happened in the hours leading up to the crime.

21-year-old Christopher Cheary stepped into the court room in dress clothes and chains, facing little Sophia's family members briefly before turning to face the judge.

Sam Coronado has been following the case for his son, Sophia's dad, because most of his family can't bear to sit through what's being discussed in court.

"It's awful that we have to sit and listen to all this stuff. It's rough," Coronado said.

Sam says he met Cheary at a birthday party for Sophia a few years back. He never thought the next time he'd see him would be under these circumstances.

"I look at him and I say he's here, he's going to go to trial one of these days and get his punishment after all the evidence they got on him," Coronado said,

The evidence is what was discussed Friday afternoon. Detectives detailed the things they took from Cheary and Sophia's mother Erica Smith's apartment in May 2011. That's when emergency crews found little Sophia badly injured and not breathing.

Detectives told the judge about the hours of recorded interviews, the statements from more than 200 witnesses and the details that led them to charge Sophia's mom's boyfriend with murder with special allegations, 2 for sexual assault of a child and one for the infliction of torture.

Police say the "torture" allegation stems from the multiple injuries Sophia received. Family members heard Friday that Cheary and Sophia's mother used heroin in the hours before Sophia was found unresponsive.

"We know she's in a better place but um its just the family, to see my grandson, the father, the other kids all ask for her and stuff like that," Coronado said.

Cheary is faced with a number of other charges in this case. If convicted he could get the death penalty. The case will be back in court in September.

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Tags:
exeter, tulare county, visalia, murder, crimetracker, local, stephanie stone
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