More than five years later, trial begins for suspected child-killer in South Valley

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The prosecution described the 3-year-old girl as energetic, lively and always smiling before she was killed in May of 2011. (KFSN)

The murder trial for an alleged child-killer in the South Valley started Monday.

More than five years after Sophia Acosta's death, her mother's boyfriend, Christopher Cheary faced a jury. Tulare County assistant district attorney David Alavezos began with a photo of Sophia - describing the 3-year-old girl from Exeter as energetic, lively and always smiling before she was killed in May of 2011.

Paramedics found her unresponsive at her mother's apartment. Prosecutors said Sophia suffered blunt force trauma causing her to bleed excessively in several parts of her body. Alavezos also showed jurors graphic photos of the child's bruises.

"This case is not going to be easy for anybody to look at," Alavezos said. "But we have to discuss it."

The defendant, Christopher Cheary, was the boyfriend of Sophia's mother. He was home with Sophia and her baby sister while Sophia's mom was reportedly in Visalia buying heroin. Cheary, now 25, is charged with first-degree murder, with special circumstances of torture and sexual penetration.

"It's a tragedy whenever a child dies, but there was no rape, there was no murder, and there was no torture," defense attorney Angela Krueger said.

Cheary's defense team argued that if Sophia was raped, there would have been fresh blood found inside the apartment. She said the bleeding doctors discovered later was due to a blood clotting disorder Sophia had.

Alavezos said Cheary's DNA was found on a bed skirt in the girls' room but the defense says that's not unusual because it was once Cheary's room.

"They've conducted DNA tests," he said. "They found none of her on him, none of him on her."

Witnesses took the stand on Monday, including a neighbor at the apartment complex who called 911 and the apartment manager, who in addition to testifying about the chaos of that day, spoke about the changes she saw around the time Cheary moved into the apartment.

"It was so confusing just like happened so quick," the witness said.

She suspected drug use, got complaints from neighbors, and never saw Sophia, her sister, or her mother.

"It came to a point where that we didn't see her outside at all," she said.

It's been more than five years since Sophia Acosta was seen for the last time. If convicted of killing her, Cheary faces the death penalty.

Related Topics:
homicidetrialtulare countyVisalia
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