June 12, 1996 in Nation/World

‘You Know You Did It,’ Mom Shouts At Trial Ex-Boyfriend Accused In Death Of Child; Mother Faces Trial, Too

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Between tears, shouts and profanities, Eileen Campanelli spent Tuesday accusing her former boyfriend of killing her daughter.

It was the second day of Federico Cortez’s trial for felony injury to a child. The 35-year-old Rathdrum man is charged with abusing 2-year-old Christina Campanelli, causing a fatal brain injury.

Despite repeated objections from Cortez’s attorney - and warnings from the judge - Campanelli made her opinion clear.

“You know you did it,” she spat, locking eyes with Cortez. “You’re a sick man, Rico.”

But this week’s trial is likely to become as much a trial of Campanelli as it is of Cortez. Cortez and his attorney, Tim Gresback, contend it is Campanelli who killed the toddler.

The 32-year-old Hayden woman also has been charged with causing injury to a child. Her trial is expected sometime next month.

On Tuesday, Gresback implied that Campanelli only decided to testify against Cortez after finding out she would have to stand trial herself. He accused her of framing Cortez to help her own case.

But Kootenai County Deputy Prosecutor Lansing Haynes doesn’t necessarily have to prove which person abused the girl.

He has charged both adults with “causing or permitting” the child to be injured or permitting the child “to be placed in a situation endangering her health.”

Therefore the jury may convict them if the prosecution can prove they knew the child was being injured and allowed it to happen.

Campanelli and Cortez began dating in December 1994. By September 1995, Christina, her 5-year-old sister, Maria, and their mother had moved in with Cortez.

Eileen Campanelli told the jury that she spent much of the day on Sept. 19 with Christina. Other than a bruise on her head from an earlier fall, the girl appeared to be fine.

About 5:20 p.m., Campanelli left her children with Cortez to go to a party in Sandpoint. She said she called Cortez that evening to check on them.

“He said Christina seemed tired earlier than usual so he gave her a bath and put her to bed,” Campanelli testified.

When Campanelli came home at 11 p.m. she kissed her daughters good night. She said the room was dark so she didn’t notice anything wrong with them. However, she said she did notice that Cortez just laid in bed with his back to her.

Campanelli said that when she woke up the next morning, Cortez immediately followed her to the children’s bedroom. Maria jumped out of bed but Christina would not wake up.

On the way to the hospital Cortez told her that officials would ask them a lot of questions and try to make it look like a crime, Campanelli said.

When doctors examined the child, she was comatose and “basically, she had bruises all over,” said Dr. Alan Hendrickson.

Stone-faced jurors passed around photographs of the girl’s wounds - black and blue marks on her back, buttocks, feet, arms and face.

Three doctors testified Tuesday that the injuries clearly came from child abuse.

Dr. Dan Brutocao said Cortez acted strangely at the hospital - turning his emotions on and off “almost like a switch.” When Cortez didn’t think doctors were around, he would sit in the girl’s room watching television or reading.

“When we would walk in the room … he’d stand by the bed and weep and continually tell Christina he didn’t know why we were hurting her,” Brutocao testified.

A friend of Campanelli’s testified that she overheard Cortez at the hospital telling Campanelli that he wanted to grab Maria and run. Campanelli told him no, Jennifer Ayerle said.

Christina died Sept. 24 as a result of severe brain injuries.

Campanelli testified that Cortez even admitted to her that he was the one who hurt the girl.

“I said ‘Did you drop Christina?’ He didn’t say anything and then he said, ‘I didn’t mean to do it. I didn’t want her to die,”’ Campanelli said.

Cortez, sporting short-cropped hair and wearing a suit and glasses, sat watching the jurors and occasionally locked eyes with Campanelli. Campanelli accused him of appearing in “disguise” - pointing out that he didn’t need glasses because he had perfect vision.

Campanelli sat on the stand with Bible in hand and with photographs of her children.It’s an image likely to come under question later this week when the defense is expected to present witnesses who will say Campanelli abused her children.

Shortly after the girl’s death, several friends and neighbors of the couple told The Spokesman-Review that they often saw bruises on both the children.

One former neighbor said she could often hear Campanelli screaming at her daughters in the apartment next door.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo


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