Trial underway for Misty Stoddard, accused of killing 11-year-old autistic daughter

SARASOTA, Fla. - The trial is underway for a Sarasota mother accused of abusing and killing her 11-year-old autistic step daughter.

Authorities say Misty Stoddard would strap Melissa to a plywood board and put duct tape over her mouth. They say Misty Stoddard also used a helmet to restrain Melissa.

"The helmet was tied down so that she couldn't move her head. She was dead because Misty Stoddard routinely put duct tape over Melissa Stoddard's mouth to prevent her from screaming," said prosecutor Karen Fraivillig.

Misty Stoddard is charged with first degree murder and aggravated child abuse.

Melissa's biological father, Kenneth, was also arrested. But he's only charged with abuse, not murder. His trial is scheduled for later this year.

Stoddard's defense quoted radio legend Paul Harvey, saying the jury needs to know "the rest of the story."

The defense appears to be pointing the finger at Kenneth Stoddard, saying he controlled what went on in the home.

"When it's over. And you find out exactly who's responsible for what, who was the person who was the cause of young Melissa's death and you render a verdict of not guilty, you will not be letting Misty Stoddard off, you will be enforcing the law," said defense attorney Mark Brewer.

The first witness was one of the paramedics who said although the situation appeared grave, he wasn't giving up on trying to save her.

"Were you continuing to do CPR?"

"Yes ma'am," he said.

Misty's teenage son also will take the stand. Prosecutors say he'll testify that his mother abused Melissa and asked him to hide the board and restraints before authorities arrived.

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