- Associated Press - Thursday, September 3, 2015

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) - A pediatric nurse on Thursday detailed injuries that prosecutors say were inflicted on a 9-year-old boy who died from child abuse, saying the victim had more markings indicative of abuse than any of the hundreds of other patients she has treated.

Kimberly Brown, a nurse in University of New Mexico Hospital’s emergency room, testified during the trial of Stephen Casaus in the death of his stepson Omaree Varela, whose troubled home life had been made known to police and state child welfare workers before he died.

As a prosecutor showed graphic photographs to jurors, Brown identified the injuries she discovered on Omaree’s body after he died - a laceration to his left eyebrow, a bite mark on his wrist, swelling under his abdomen, and bruising on his groin, forearm and back. There were also three scars on his chest and beneath his nose.

“I looked over the entire body and documented all the marks on him,” Brown said. “He had more pattern marking than I’ve ever seen.”

During cross-examination, however, she said it couldn’t be determined at the hospital who inflicted the injuries.



The images led several people in the courtroom to weep, including the defendant, whose charges include child abuse resulting in death, tampering with evidence and bribery of a witness.

Jurors must decide whether Casaus participated in the fatal abuse that defense attorneys argue was inflicted only by the boy’s mother, Synthia Varela-Casaus. She is expected to stand trial separately on a charge of child abuse resulting in death.

Authorities allege Casaus lied to investigators on Dec. 27, 2013, saying first he was at a friend’s when his wife called him home because the boy had fallen. Later, he told police that he was getting high in a bathroom, while Omaree’s mother kicked and stomped the unconscious child, prosecutors said.

Detective Chad Stuart testified that paraphernalia typically used to inject heroin was found in the bedroom where police discovered Omaree unconscious.

The case captured broad attention in New Mexico amid reports that a staffer at Omaree’s elementary school had informed the state’s Child Youth and Families Department of suspected abuse.

Police visited the home in June 2013 after an emergency dispatcher overheard the boy being verbally abused. However, the 911 call is not allowed as evidence in Casaus’ trial.

Casaus has maintained that on the day Omaree died, he tried to save him instead of immediately dialing 911 after he realized the seriousness of the boy’s condition. He told police he ran cold water on Omaree and attempted CPR. He also placed an oxygen mask on him.

During the investigation, Albuquerque Police Detective Michelle English said, Casaus presented three different stories to police during interviews.

The second day of the trial also brought testimony from the victim’s aunt, Sylvia Varela-Marquez, who tearfully recalled the day the state removed a 3-year-old Omaree from her care and returned him to the custody of her sister Synthia.

Varela-Marquez now has custody of Omaree’s brother, 4, and sister, 7. She said the children have nightmares.

“I can’t understand what they’re saying but I hear ‘Omaree, Omaree,’” she said.

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