The father of the victim in the child abuse trial of Angela Alarcon said he still loves her and she didn't harm his boy.
During about two hours of testimony Wednesday, Arturo Gonzalez helped paint a picture that he was often an absentee father because of his job, leaving Alarcon on her own to care for her three children, including one they have together, and Gonzalez's two, including the victim.
Gonzalez also may have come off as oblivious to his son's dire condition, and the charges against Alarcon haven't detered his feelings for her.
"I love her," he said on the witness stand. He wore a ring on his wedding finger to show his commitment to her.
Hermiston police arrested Alarcon, now 29, on Nov. 16, 2007, after investigating her for beating, neglecting and starving Gonzalez's then-3-1/2-year-old son. Alarcon has been in the Umatilla County Jail in Pendleton since her arrest and has pleaded not guilty to multiple felony charges of first- and third-degree assault and first-degree criminal mistreatment.
The juryless trial began Monday in Pendleton. Witnesses for the state testified the boy was covered in bruises, had large lesions on his back and the back of one leg and was literally starving when police discovered the abuse. Medical experts said the child had two skull fractures at the time that were weeks to a year old and that he may well have brain damage.
Defense attorney Janie Burcart said her client was an overwhelmed and frustrated single mother caring for more children than she could handle alone. Alarcon certainly sounded emotionally wrought, angry and stressed out in audio recordings of jail house interviews with Oregon State Police the day of and after her arrest.
Alarcon and Gonzalez lived together in 2006 and 2007. Gonzalez testified he worked long shifts as a forklift operater six and sometimes seven days a week. He said he usually saw the children in the mornings and then at night as they were going to bed. When he had Sundays off he said he spent his time with Alarcon and the children.
He attributed bruises on his son to rough housing and playing with other children. He also backed Alarcon's story that the boy threw violent tantrums and would fling himself to the floor. Gonzalez credited Alarcon with potty training the boy and providing structure and discipline for the children, which he said he had difficulty doing. He also backed the defense's story that the boy would take hours to eat one meal and sometimes refused to take food from Alarcon.
Yet Gonzalez also stated he rarely if ever bathed the boy or saw him without clothes. Deputy District Attorney Kate Beckwith showed Gonzalez photos of his son from the day of Alarcon's arrest, a day Gonzalez had taken the boy to the babysitter who reported the abuse. Gonzalez admitted the child didn't look healthy or normal.
Gonzalez also has pleaded guilty to second-degree criminal mistreatment, but he has yet to receive a sentence. Umatilla County District Attorney Dean Gushwa dispelled Burcart's notion Gonzalez's sentence depended on his testimony.
Outside the courtroom, Gonzalez said this was the first time in two years he saw Alarcon. He He also said he didn't believe the state's case.
"She's not lying, they're lying," he said.
Even if the judge finds Alarcon guilty, Gonzalez said he will forgive her because he is a Christian and because he's fighting for his family.
The boy's biological mother, Tammie Proa, also testified. Proa has had custody of the boy since Dec. 7, 2007. She described him as "gloomy" at that time, with dark eyes, sunken cheeks, skinny legs and a protruding stomach. Since being in her care, though, she said his condition is much improved and he now behaves like a typical 5-year-old.
Burcart has suggested the victim was a difficult child because Proa used methamphetamine while pregnant with the boy. Proa admitted she used meth in the first trimester of the pregnancy, but not after that. She also has a March, 2008 conviction for distributing a controlled substance, but she said she has been clean since.
The state concluded its side of the case Wednesday. The defense will present its first witness Friday.