A Turlock 2-year-old girl with cerebral palsy was kept in her crib and shut away in a filthy room with five cats and no food or water for three days before she was found dead by her mother — the woman now standing accused of her murder.
Brandy Rose Lee Devine, 25, of Turlock is facing a murder charge for the death of her 2-year-old daughter Stephanie Torres, as well as a felony charge of willful cruelty to a child and a misdemeanor charge of being under the influence of a controlled substance.
A preliminary hearing to determine if there is enough cause to hold Devine over for trial on the charges began Friday in Stanislaus County Superior Court. The case is scheduled to resume Monday.
The hearing’s first witness was Devine’s neighbor Lydia Whitworth, who ran to Devine’s house the afternoon of July 16, 2012, when Devine began screaming her baby was dead.
“She screamed ‘The baby is dead,’” Whitworth said. “I thought she meant the newborn Jacob, but she said ‘No, Stephanie.’”
In an emotional recounting Whitworth described first seeing the toddler lying motionless in the crib.
“She was dead,” a tearful Whitworth testified. “She was totally gray and her eyes were rolled up.”
Deputy District Attorney John Mayne questioned Whitworth about Devine’s other three children and Whitworth said the 6-year-old and 4-year-old girls were frequently at her house to play with her granddaughter and that they often appeared dirty and hungry.
Turlock Police Detective Amy Beebe was the first law enforcement to arrive at the N. Denair Avenue residence and began CPR on the toddler once she found a clear space in the hallway. Fire fighters arrived at the scene and after evaluating Stephanie declared her dead.
A cause of death has not been publically released.
Beebe testified the whole house, and in particular the bedroom where Stephanie was kept, had a strong odor of cat urine and that amidst the clutter she could see cat litter and feces.
Turlock Police Officer Justin Williamson, who was the lead detective assigned to the case, interviewed Devine after Stephanie was found. He testified Friday that Devine told him Stephanie had been in the room with the five cats since Friday night and that she had not gone into the room during that time. Stephanie was found on a Monday.
“She said she assumed the 6-year-old was taking care of the 2-year-old, Williamson said of his interview with Devine. “She never checked on her.”
Williamson said Devine told him that she had been feeling ill with flu-like symptoms and that she smoked some methamphetamine with her friend “Scott” on Sunday.
“She said she took it to wake up and make herself feel better,” Williamson said.
Prior to the testimony beginning Friday both the prosecution and defense stipulated Devine’s blood test was positive for methamphetamine use sometime within 72 hours of the discovery of Stephanie’s death.
Williamson also interviewed Devine’s 6-year-old daughter who told the detective she wanted to check on Stephanie, but that her mother wouldn’t let her and kept the door closed the whole time. The daughter, now 7, is expected to take the stand Monday.
Williamson said Devine’s house had very little food in it, but that the other three children had been fed during the time that Stephanie was left without.
Devine has pled not guilty to the charges against her. She is being held at the Public Safety Center in lieu of a $1 million bail.
Clothed in a red jumpsuit and with a long ponytail falling to her back, Devine sat mostly motionless in the courtroom Friday except for a shaking right leg.