The trial of a stepmother accused in the murder of her 11-year-old autistic child begins

Jurors heard an emotionally draining first day of testimony in the trial of Misty Stoddard, who’s accused of murdering her 11-year-old stepdaughter.
 
Jurors saw disturbing evidence, including a plywood board where investigators believe Stoddard hogtied her stepdaughter, Melissa, Velcro-ed her head into a helmet and duct taped her mouth.
 
Prosecutors ended the day with home video of the girl yelling hysterically.
 
The prosecutors said that video is just one piece of their case against Stoddard. They said the girl suffered months of abuse after moving in with her biological father, Ken, and her stepmother.
 
They told jurors there is even more evidence they will hear throughout the week-long trial on what the couple did to keep the girl quiet.
 
Stoddard began to cry when prosecutors showed jurors dozens of pictures and video of Melissa in a St. Petersburg hospital.
 
The child was taken there one night in December 2012. The Stoddards called 911 after Melissa stopped breathing.
 
Once the child arrived, doctors immediately called investigators, suspecting abuse.
 
Crime scene technician Maxine Miller showed video investigators took documenting the child's condition.
 
"You can clearly see these are bruises around her ankle and her wrists. We also found evidence of tape," said Miller.
 
Prosecutors said the couple tried to hide the piece of plywood they used to secure the girl.
 
Sarasota deputy Mike DeLeo, one of the first responders to the home, testified it appeared Melissa had been bound more than once.
 
"I noticed duct tape on outlets and scratch marks on the wall," DeLeo said.
 
The defense will have its turn. According to the opening statements, Stoddard's lawyers are already pointing to Melissa's father as having more accountability.
 
They also question if Stoddard’s rights were violated at the hospital. They said she was not read her rights.
 
Prosecutors argued Stoddard was not in custody at that time.  But the defense said the stepmother was also not allowed to leave the hospital.
 
Melissa's cause of death was hypoxia caused by oxygen deprivation.
 
The trial resumes Tuesday and is expected to last this entire week.
 
Stoddard faces life in prison if found guilty.
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