Flood Warning issued July 27 at 9:03PM EDT expiring July 30 at 2:00PM EDT in effect for: Pasco
Day three of testimony is underway in the Misty Stoddard murder trial.
The Sarasota mother is accused of abusing and killing her 11-year-old autistic stepdaughter, Melissa.
Authorities say 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 the child.
Clad in a dark cardigan and peach top, Melissa Stoddard's former cellmate took the stand for the prosecution Wednesday.
Barbara Whiteaker, 43, recounted the six days she spent with Stoddard in December 2012.
Whiteaker claims Stoddard confessed to killing her disabled stepdaughter, Melissa, by tying her to a wooden board and duct taping her mouth shut.
"Apparently Melissa had been screaming for 15 minutes," Whiteaker recalled of the conversation.
Whiteaker said Stoddard told her how she check on Melissa after 15 minutes and found she had calmed down but that a second check five minutes later proved fatal for the 11-year-old.
"She proceeded to take the tape off of her mouth and she wasn't breathing," Whiteaker testified.
Whiteaker, a mother herself, broke down crying on the stand and told jurors she felt she had to testify in order to "stand up for Melissa."
Defense attorney Mark Brewer took aim at Whiteaker's credibility, noting that she has 25 felony convictions on her record ranging from credit card fraud to grand theft, and is currently incarcerated for violating her probation.
Whiteaker walked into court in shackles.
Brewer also pointed out how Whiteaker agreed to testify against Stoddard in exchange for two lesser sentences on separate convictions.
He went on to question her reliability and presented court document showing Whiteaker was on methadone when she allegedly heard the confession. Whiteaker, at the time, was also pregnant with twins.
In the morning, a forensics technician talk about evidence collected in and around the home where Melissa was found lifeless in 2012.
The technician described a specially designed plywood board, made to hold down the 11-year-old, a helmet used to keep her head velcro-ed to the board, and a roll of duct tape on a shelf used to cover her mouth.
Later in the morning, a crime lab analyst with the FDLE testified that Misty Stoddard's DNA was found on parts of the board and the duct tape.
Prosecutors say Stoddard, who cared for five other children, resented having to look after the special needs girl and wanted her gone.
Stoddard’s own son testified against on Tuesday.
The defense contends that Melissa's biological father, Kenneth, controlled the home and built the board. The also contend that he tried to hide it when authorities came.
Like his wife, Kenneth, was also arrested for aggravated child abuse. But he is not charged with murder.
Experts say some of his DNA's was also found on the board.