Woman convicted in girl's torture, starvation
Mark Mulligan / The Herald
Sitting behind her defense attorney, Max Harrison, defendant Mary Mazalic listens to the verdict in her trial Thursday afternoon in Snohomish County Superior Court in Everett. Mazalic was found guilty for the torture and starvation of a young girl who lived with Mazalic and Mazalic's boyfriend.
Mary Mazalic, 35, was led away in handcuffs as her attorney Max Harrison thanked her for behaving in court.
Meanwhile, the girl's foster family thanked Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Lisa Paul for her work on behalf of the child.
Jurors deliberated for about three hours on Thursday before reaching a verdict.
Mazalic was convicted of first-degree assault of child, criminal mistreatment and witness tampering. Jurors also concluded that the child abuse crimes were deliberately cruel, the victim was particularly vulnerable and Mazalic had abused her position of trust. Proving those aggravating factors will allow the state to seek a sentence above the standard range.
The prosecutor said she plans to ask for a 30-year prison stay for Mazalic at sentencing, scheduled for Nov. 29.
During days of testimony jurors learned that the girl had a rough start in life.
She was placed in foster care as an infant and diagnosed with special needs. Then, in 2010, she was sent away from her home, her adoptive mother and young brothers. She was placed in Washington with an older adoptive brother and Mazalic, his girlfriend. Here, she struggled in a new school, where she was enrolled in a mainstream class, despite having been in special education at her former elementary school.
Jurors were told that Mazalic made the girl's life worse.
Paul alleged that Mazalic for months tortured the child, whipping her with cords and burning her with lit cigarettes. The prosecutor said Mazalic starved the girl until she was "skin and bones."
The child weighed about 51 pounds when she was rescued from Mazalic's home in 2011. Two sales associates at a Lynnwood clothing store became concerned about the girl's welfare after Mazalic brought the child into the store during a shopping trip. They said it was clear to them that the girl was emaciated.
The prosecutor told jurors that Mazalic isolated the girl, failed to get her proper medical treatment and manipulated other adults in the girl's life to believe that the child was a "monster," a liar and a thief.
The prosecutor on Thursday read from a letter Mazalic wrote to the girl. Police found the letter in a notebook during a search of the home. In the letter, Mazalic berated the girl, warning her that if she continued to steal she would end up living under a bridge "with strange men who will do bad things to you."
The girl was forced to sleep in a bathtub. She urinated in her clothes because she believed she would be beaten if she left her bedroom, Paul said. Mazalic was accused of stuffing a ball in the girl's mouth to stifle her screams while she was whipped. Jurors were told that the ball was a sex toy associated with bondage practices.
The girl was humiliated and threatened, the prosecutor said.
Last week in a courtroom full of strangers, the girl, now 11, testified that there were times that she wanted to die so the pain would end.
Parents can lose their tempers, Paul told jurors Thursday during closing arguments. It takes something more, though, to do what Mazalic did to the child, she said.
"It takes a person who doesn't love a child," Paul said.
Harrison argued on Thursday that his client tried to be a good parent, but wasn't up for the job, especially for a child with special needs. Admittedly, he said, Mazalic was ill-equipped for parenthood and made some bad choices. He argued, however, that the prosecutor failed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Mazalic was responsible for the girl's injuries or that his client intentionally withheld food from the child.
"Mary's sin here is being blind to the condition of the child and what that meant," Harrison said.
He reminded jurors that the child testified that her brother had hit her and forced her to exercise for long stretches of time as a form of punishment. He could be responsible for the child's injuries and severe weight loss, Harrison said.
"(Mazalic) cared about the child," he said. "The idea that she didn't love the child or didn't try simply isn't true."
Harrison urged the jury to consider the facts carefully and not be swayed by emotional testimony or the photographs taken of the girl at the hospital in 2011.
Jurors were shown some of those pictures again on Thursday.
In them, the girl's ribs are clearly visible under her skin. Scars and whip marks stretch across her body. Jurors are told the round scars are where the fourth-grader was burned with cigarettes.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.