To a defense attorney, the suffering was the work of one person, a woman named Mary Mazalic, who in 2012 was convicted and sentenced to 30 years in prison for torturing and starving the 10-year-old girl.
It will be up to a Snohomish County Superior Court jury to decide whether Derron Patrick Alexis, 44, shares in responsibility for the child's anguish. His trial on charges of criminal mistreatment and unlawful imprisonment began Tuesday.
Alexis is accused beating the girl, withholding food and failing to provide her medical attention and other basic necessities.
Prosecutors also say that he once threatened her with a belt when she made noises after Mazalic placed her in a dog crate.
The girl had lived in New York with Alexis' parents, but in 2010 was sent to live in Mukilteo. Once in her new home, evidence showed she was beaten with whips, burned with lit cigarettes and punished by being denied food.
When rescued in August 2011 by police and social workers, the girl weighed just 51 pounds. Her body had lost nearly all its fat and had started metabolizing her muscles for energy.
It would seem that the girl "was placed with two of the worst people she could have been placed with," deputy prosecutor Lisa Paul told the jury Tuesday.
Paul described Mazalic as "a complicated individual" beset by medical and mental conditions and prone to outbursts. Mazalic was receiving government disability payments and Alexis was listed as her full-time caregiver. He reportedly told state authorities that he never left Mazalic alone.
Alexis worked full-time away from the home. He often was asleep during the day, leaving Mazalic alone with the frail and vulnerable girl.
"She was unsafe to be around children," Paul said.
The child initially was hesitant to say anything bad about Alexis because she cared about her brother and he was part of her family.
Prosecutors alleged in court papers that the defendant and his mother visited the girl while she was hospitalized after being removed from the Mukilteo home. The girl's adoptive mother reportedly told the child not to say anything bad about Alexis to the authorities.
The New York woman had sent the girl to live with Alexis and Mazalic in the summer of 2010 because she didn't want the girl to be placed in special education classes. Mazalic and Alexis enrolled the girl in the fourth grade in Mukilteo without telling school officials about her special needs.
Defense attorney Tom Cox told jurors that Alexis worked long hours and at night. His body clock was geared to sleeping during the day, which limited his contact with the girl.
He also cautioned the jury against drawing too many conclusions about the girl's weight, saying she always was "always thin as a rail" and actually gained weight after she moved to Mukilteo. He blamed part of her weight issues on some of the medications she had been prescribed.
Alexis was unaware of any marks from beatings on the girl's body because he wanted to keep a distance from ever seeing her without her clothes on, Cox said.
"The evidence is going to show that Derron Alexis had no way of knowing" about the abuse, Cox said.
Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446, firstname.lastname@example.org.
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