Maurice ‘Isaiah’ Torres died of septic shock in an Arkansas hospital after his father violated him with a stick for eating a piece of cake.
Mauricio Alejandro Torres was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2016, but it was overturned due to a technicality. State law dictates that capital murder offences that carry the death penalty must be tried in the same state as where they are being prosecuted. And while Isaiah died in his home state of Arkansas, the assault that killed him happened in Missouri.
The disturbing details of his short life and protracted death were set before the court on Thursday. “This is a story of abuse, torture, and murder of six-year-old Isaiah,” Benton County Prosecutor Nathan Smith told jurors. “He suffered chronic child abuse syndrome. The pictures you will see are ugly, grotesque.”
Isaiah died of septic shock after his father raped him with a stick for eating a piece of cake without permission during a camping trip on March 28, 2015. The bleeding, badly injured little boy was then forced into strenuous exercise by his parents as further punishment. His mother, Cathy, then pushed him to the ground in the midst of his desperate fight for survival.
As he deteriorated, Isaiah’s parents finally alerted emergency medical services, who then transported him to the Bella Vista medical clinic near his home. Unfortunately, it was already too late. The next day, the bacterial infection Isaiah contracted from the torture finally took his life.
Isaiah did not have to die. A year before his death, the Arkansas Department of Human Services twice investigated his parents on allegations of child abuse. Unfortunately, no one — not even the department that explicitly exists for that purpose — took the action needed to save his life.
In the opening statements of the re-trial, two of Isaiah’s teachers testified that they recorded evidence of his abuse and reported it to authorities through the Arkansas Department of Health and Human Services Child Abuse Hotline. They received no response. Arkansas carries the fourth highest rate of rape in the United States, and is within the top 15 states for fatal child abuse.
Defense attorney Bill James told the jurors not to “use emotion as evidence,” and urged them to “try your best to keep decision based on evidence/fact.” Torres’s defense rests on putting the blame for Isaiah’s death on his wife. Cathy Torres has already received a life sentence on charges of capital murder for her part in the destruction of her child.
Mauricio Torres face charges of battery and capital murder. If re-convicted in Arkansas, he will face life imprisonment or execution. The trial will resume on Friday morning, and is expected to last roughly two weeks.