Doctor gives graphic testimony as Christopher Cheary murder trial enters second week

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A South Valley murder trial is now in its second week. Christopher Cheary, 25, is charged with raping and killing his girlfriend's three-year-old daughter Sophia Acosta in May of 2011. Monday, jurors heard from a doctor who examined and treated the toddler after she was brought to Valley Children's.

Sophia was first brought to Kaweah Delta Hospital here in Visalia before going to Valley Children's in Madera County. It was there that doctors eventually declared her brain dead. By the time Sophia arrived at Valley Children's Hospital, Dr. Kathleen Murphy could tell the little girl was gravely ill and likely already brain dead.

It's been more than five years since she treated Sophia but she still remembers her condition clearly.

"I'd like to forget but you don't forget seeing children who have been tortured," she said.

"Objection," Cheary's defense quickly said after Murphy's testimony. "Move to strike your honor."

Cheary's defense team has said there was no torture, rape, or murder and argued Sophia's death is a medical mystery. They said Sophia had a blood clotting disorder, which would explain her excessive bleeding at the hospital. But Murphy testified the condition was likely caused by traumatic injuries, such as blunt force trauma.

In other words, she doesn't think Sophia had the disorder prior to May 7, 2011, when the three-year-old was found unresponsive at this apartment in Exeter.

"When the coagulation system has been disrupted, in something like this systemic inflammatory response from a brain injury, the coagulation factors they go into overdrive and they are basically used up and then they bleed," Murphy explained to the jury.

Murphy said multiple drug screenings showed a presence of marijuana in Sophia's body when she arrived at Valley Children's. She also noticed bruising, bleeding and lacerations she said could not be explained by the child's medical history.

"Her eyes were rolled in the back of her head and she had blue lips," she told the court.

Later in court, neighbor Karen Bibee described seeing Sophia on May 7. When asked if she had any idea of how Cheary treated Sophia's mother, she recalled an earlier conversation she had with Erika Smith at a park.

"'He's hitting me, he hits me. He took his hand on my throat, rammed me up against the wall,'" she recalled Smith saying. "And I asked her why and she says it was because the kids weren't calling him, 'Daddy.'"
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