By Diana Hefley Herald Writer
EVERETT — For nearly two hours on Thursday, an 11-year-old girl sat in front of a jury and explained how she was repeatedly beaten with electrical cords and a wooden spoon, and forced to eat soap, sleep in a bathtub, and starved for days on end.
She’d been told that she was a bad girl, deserving to be punished because she lied and stole.
“I was the worst kid on earth,” the girl said, offering an explanation for why she wasn’t being fed.
Her voice was steady as she talked about the year she lived in Mukilteo with her brother and his girlfriend, Mary Mazalic. The pink bow in her curly hair bobbed up and down as she nodded at the prosecutor’s questions. She smiled at her new foster parents seated in the gallery. Her brow furrowed when she glanced at Mazalic across the courtroom.
She proudly announced that she weighs 70 pounds now. She likes her new school, and math. Her favorite color is pink. She has a best friend, and thinks that she didn’t have any friends at her old school because she “was probably the only brown girl there, most like.”
Jurors were told that the girl had been a foster child and later adopted by a couple in New York. They were unhappy that she was put in special education classes, and they decided to send her to Washington to live with their son and his girlfriend, Mazalic.
The girl testified that at first she was happy in the couple’s Mukilteo home. Then the abuse started.
She said Mazalic threatened her with a gun and a knife. She wet her pants because she wasn’t allowed to leave her room. Then she was forced to wear a diaper. She said she was locked outside and told to sleep in a tent. Sometimes she tried to fight back, but Mazalic was stronger and the beatings would get worse.
She testified that she stole food from other students in her class because she was hungry. She described the dry oatmeal she was given at home, a meal Mazalic called “jail food.”
The girl told jurors that there were times when she thought she was going to die. She remembered feeling weak and not being able to move around much.
She recalled that there were days she no longer wanted to live “because I didn’t want to feel any more of the beatings,” the child said.
Thursday marked the first day of testimony in the case against Mazalic, 35. She is accused of torturing and starving the girl. Prosecutors also allege that she tried to get her boyfriend to hide evidence and told him to refuse to cooperate with police.
Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Lisa Paul told the jury that Mazalic isolated the girl, kept her out of school and told lies about the child that affected the way others treated her. The girl weighed 51 pounds when she was removed from Mazalic’s home. She had whip marks across her body and what appeared to be cigarette burns on her feet and buttocks.
“The evidence will show that there are no excuses for what Mary did to (the child) and what she didn’t do for (her),” Paul said in opening statements.
The defendant’s attorney, Max Harrison, chose to wait on giving an opening statement.
During the police investigation, Mazalic told detectives that the girl was not being abused, and that she was “thin, but eats well,” according to court papers.
Jurors on Thursday heard from the two store clerks, Tia Harris and April Christofferson, who first alerted authorities in August 2011 that they were concerned about a child who came into a Lynnwood store. Mazalic had brought the girl with her while searching for a plus-size bathing suit.
The women noticed that the girl appeared emaciated and trembled. They became more suspicious after hearing Mazalic berate the child.
Christofferson broke down in tears on the witness stand as she explained how Mazalic spoke to the girl.
“I felt it was abusive,” she said.
She also testified about Mazalic calling her the next day, asking her why she’d called Child Protective Services.
The pediatrician who treated the girl during her two-week hospital stay also testified Thursday. He said it was clear from looking at the girl that she was suffering from severe malnutrition. Without enough calories, her body had shed nearly all its fat and begun feeding on her muscles for energy. Her cheeks were sunken in. The muscles around her temples, which help people chew, were wasted away. That gave her head a caved-in look. Her ribs were clearly visible and her limbs were abnormally thin.
He explained that medical staff had to slowly build up the girl’s caloric intake because her body was not used to food. Too many calories at once could have created complications, including death.
The girl gained more than 10 pounds during her hospital stay.
She was preoccupied with food, a common symptom of someone who has been starving, he said.
“She was always asking about her next meal and when she could eat more than we were offering,” the pediatrician said.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.