ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) – The Albuquerque stepfather accused of killing 9-year-old Omaree Varela cried in court Wednesday during the first day of his trial.
In opening statements, prosecutors said they believe Stephen Casaus and the boy’s mom beat Omaree to death and, at the very least, Casaus didn’t do anything to stop the abuse.
After hearing from both prosecutors and the defense Wednesday morning, KRQE News 13 is learning more about what happened the day Omaree died.
Prosecutors claim Casaus changed his story when police asked him about that day in December 2013. First, he said he wasn’t even home during the beating. Prosecutors said he then told police he was in the bathroom shooting up heroin while the boy was being beaten in another room.
The state also claims police were called at least 30-minutes after Omaree was injured.
The defense claims Casaus’ wife, Synthia Varela-Casaus, killed her son alone and that Casaus did everything he could to save him.
“This young boy was murdered by his mother,” said Defense Attorney, Tom Clark. “She beat and kicked him to death.”
To stress that point, the defense played video that news cameras captured as police took Synthia to jail.
“I was disciplining him, and I kicked him the wrong way,” she told reporters. “It was an accident.”
“At no point does she say Mr. Casaus had anything to do with it, did she?” defense attorney Cindy Leo asked a police officer on the stand.
“Not that I heard,” he responded.
The state called several first responders to the stand on the first day. The witnesses mostly described Omaree’s injuries and how they tried to save his life.
Prosecutors said an autopsy report shows Omaree died from internal bleeding after being beaten to death.
Albuquerque Police Officer Katherine Wright said both parents seemed off when she arrived.
“I found it very odd that neither one asked about his condition,” said Officer Wright. “They didn’t seem upset or wanting to see him.”
The defense admits it’s a horrible crime, but still claims Stephen Casaus is innocent. The defense also asked a few of the first responders if the other children seemed afraid of Casaus when they entered the home; the responders said no.
Lapel video of police arriving on scene to save Omaree played for jurors; Casaus broke out in tears.
Both the prosecution and defense mentioned that Omaree’s younger sister will be the key witness in this trial. There is no word yet on when she will testify.
Stephen Casaus is facing child abuse charges resulting in death, which carries a life sentence.
Omaree’s mother, Synthia Varela-Casaus, will stand trial separately. Her case is now on hold while it’s determined if she is competent to stand trial.