Adoptive brother convicted of abusing, starving girl

EVERETT — The girl wrapped her arms around the deputy prosecutor and squeezed.

A jury had confirmed on Tuesday what the pair knew was the truth all along — the girl’s adoptive brother abused and mistreated the child when he should have protected her.

It only took jurors three hours to convict Derron Alexis, 44. The former airplane mechanic denied being responsible for the girl’s condition when the 10-year-old was rescued from his home in 2011.

She weighed just 51 pounds. Her body had lost nearly all its fat and had started metabolizing her muscles for energy. She had scars from being whipped with electrical cords and burned with lit cigarettes. She was kept in diapers and forced to sleep in a bathtub. The girl alleged that Alexis forced her to stay in a dog crate so he could sleep.

The man testified Monday that he never wanted his adoptive sister to live with him and his former girlfriend Mary Mazalic. His mother sent the girl, then 9, to Washington because she didn’t want the child in special education classes.

Mazalic was convicted last year of abusing the girl. She is serving 30 years in prison.

Alexis faces years behind bars. The jury, which convicted him of first-degree criminal mistreatment and unlawful imprisonment, also found that Alexis committed the crimes under aggravating circumstance. They agreed that the girl was particularly vulnerable and Alexis abused his position of trust as the girl’s caregiver.

That verdict leaves the door open for the judge to go beyond the standard range set by the state sentencing guidelines commission. Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Lisa Paul declined to discuss any sentencing recommendation. She said she needed to put more thought into what she believes is just punishment for the defendant.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Wynne on Tuesday insisted that Alexis be jailed. The defendant had been free on his own recognizance during the trial. Wynne is expected to sentence the man next month.

Alexis didn’t seem to react to the jury’s verdict. Before he was handcuffed, he made a hasty phone call to his mother.

“Guilty on both counts,” he said. “No bail.”

The New York woman testified on her son’s behalf Tuesday. She adopted the girl and her two young brothers in 2003. She told jurors that she brought the girl to Washington because she didn’t believe the teachers in New York when they insisted that the girl needed to be in special education classes.

The woman continued to be paid $800 a month by the state of New York to care for the girl. She sent Mazalic $350 a month.

Meanwhile, the state of Washington paid Alexis to be Mazalic’s full-time caregiver. Mazalic claimed to have various health conditions, including diabetes and epilepsy. Her caseworker was told that Mazalic slept 18 hours a day and needed help with everyday tasks, including cooking and bathing.

The caseworker was never told that Alexis worked outside of the home or that a child was living there.

Alexis testified that the girl was Mazalic’s responsibility and he never witnessed any abuse. He said he didn’t spend much time with the child, although he initially told police that he made sure she ate.

The girl’s adoptive mother testified that the child was always skinny. She also said the girl didn’t appear in poor health when she visited her at the hospital. She claimed that the girl ran up to her and was excited to see her.

Doctors testified that not only was the girl severely malnourished but that she had a dangerous infection that left untreated could have been fatal. She spent two weeks in the hospital.

Jurors learned that the girl’s adoptive mother, Alexis and Mazalic went on a five-day cruise days after the girl was removed by Child Protective Services and hospitalized.

The New York woman had five adoptive children and received more than $50,000 a year from the state. The girl’s brothers continue to live with the New York woman. She is fighting to regain custody of the girl.

The child, now 12, stood with her foster parents on Tuesday. They quietly spoke with her as Alexis was handcuffed. They blocked her view of the man as he was led out.

The girl smiled at Mukilteo police detective Lance Smith at the front of the courtroom. He’s the cop who built the case that sent her abusers to prison.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

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