Details released in court on murder of Sophia Acosta

FRESNO, Calif.

Investigators found evidence of drugs inside the couple's apartment. Little Sophia tested positive for marijuana and investigators say the child's mother admitted to smoking it with the suspect the day the child was sexually abused and beaten until she only had a faint pulse.

Chris Cheary occasionally took notes, as investigators told the court what happened after they were called to an Exeter apartment last year for an unresponsive toddler.

Three officers arrived to find Sophia Acosta, 3, naked, wrapped up and barely breathing. The judge would not allow us to use audio from the hearing.

Exeter Police Sergeant Celis Rabena told the court during several interviews with the suspect, and Sophia's mother, Erika Smith, their versions of what happened that day changed.

Sgt. Rabena said he confronted Smith about her inconsistent statements and she told him she lied because she was afraid of losing custody of her children.

Officers also revealed what they found during a search warrant at the couple's apartment. Drug paraphernalia including foil with heroin residue. One detective said Smith told them Cheary uses the drug and accused him of forcing her to use it too.

Another detective told the court he was at Children's Hospital when doctors told Smith her daughter was sexually abused before she was beaten until she lost consciousness. The details were graphic and disturbing.

Hearing what happened that day and even being the same room as Cheary was very difficult for Sophia's great grandfather. He said, "I gotta do it, I gotta go through with it."

Sam Coronado drove from his home in Merced County to the Tulare County courthouse to hear exactly what happened last May, on the day Sophia was tortured and later died. He believes there's another person who should also be charged in the toddler's death, Sophia's mother.

"They're not going to file charges on her, there's a lot of her friends that know her real good and they say how come she is walking the streets, there's no reason," Coronado said. "She should be locked up."

Members of Chris Cheary's family did attend the hearing Thursday, but declined to comment.

The preliminary hearing will continue Friday morning and Erica Smith, Sophia's mother will likely take the stand.

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