Charlenni's Body Tells Gruesome Tales in Court

Defense attorney says accused stepmother was "loving and caring"

The open wound on 10-year-old Charlenni Ferreira’s head was seven inches long and four inches wide. Though the wound exposed her skull, someone stuffed the wound with cotton and covered it with a hair weave.

"It's a remarkable wound. I don't recall seeing a wound like that in the 25 years of work I've done," Cindy Christian, a pediatrician and child-abuse specialist at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia testified Tuesday, reported the Inquirer. "She got bashed on the top of her head hard enough to open the scalp down to the skull, fracture the skull... causing underlying brain injury."

These were just a few of the graphic details shared by an assistant medical examiner and a child-abuse specialist at Tuesday’s preliminary hearing for Margarita Garabito, Charlenni’s stepmother who is charged with the child’s murder.

The little girl who told a concerned doctor that her family treated her “like a princess,” was treated anything but.

Dying Oct. 21 from an untreated infection caused by broken ribs that pierced her lung, Charlenni’s little body uncovered the gruesome story of long-term abuse she allegedly suffered at the hands of her father and stepmother.

Charlenni’s father, Domingo Ferreira, 53, hung himself in a jail cell after being charged with his daughter’s murder, so only her stepmother is left to answer for the girl’s death. A fact that Garabito’s attorney said is unjust.

“This woman did not intend to kill the child. This woman is not guilty of first degree murder,” Barbara McDermott told NBC Philadelphia. “Does she concede that on occasion she hit the child? Yes.”

It took an assistant medical examiner more than a half an hour to list all of Charlenni’s injuries, the Inqy said. The open head wound; broken ribs; collapsed lung full of fluid; bruising up and down her legs; not to mention scarring from long-term sexual abuse, were only some of the abominations found during the child’s autopsy.

Garabito admitted to detectives that she hit Charlenni on the head with a metal broomstick, and said she was beating the girl for more than a year, according to police statements.

"I would hit her with a broomstick, but nothing to kill her," said Garabito in her translated statement to police.

And yet Garabito’s lawyer pushed the blame of the abuse to Charlenni’s dead father, saying that the sexual abuse is evidence that Garabito had little to do with her stepdaughter's demise.

“She admits that in her own limited way she was attempting to treat that wound and to make sure the wound was cared for,” said McDermott. “She was afraid of what would happen to Charlenni if she took any additional steps.”

“She did what she could to protect the child as best she could,” said McDermott. “She was a loving and caring parent.”

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