Toddler "disciplined" to death
By Chris Eby, CTV Toronto, November 3, 2009

A mother accused of beating her 21/2-year-old daughter to death admitted to being a bad parent but repeatedly denied having any hand in the little girl's death.

"I wasn't born with a book on how to be a parent," Erika Mendieta testified Tuesday during her first day of cross-examination by Crown prosecutor Allison MacPherson.

Mendieta, 33, is charged with second-degree murder in the November 2003 death of Emmily, the fifth of Mendieta's six children.

In earlier testimony, Mendieta admitted to "disciplining" Emmily; spanking the child with her hand or a cloth slipper. She acknowledged hitting the toddler hard enough that it left bruises on her arms, legs and buttocks.

Emmily died from a fatal blow to the head. Doctors also found bruises on virtually every inch of the toddler's body. When they examined Mendieta's five other children, who ranged in age from 11 years old to 22 months ,they found no similar marks.

Mendieta testified that when she was asked to account for the child's condition, she falsely blamed Emmily's bruises on minor falls and roughhousing with her siblings so that child welfare officials wouldn't take her children away.

"Emmily was singled out because she never really fit into your family ... She was becoming a problem for you and you were having trouble managing her?" MacPherson asked.

"No. That's not true," Mendieta responded.

Emmily was raised from birth by her aunt Selena Parra. But in July 2003 Mendieta took her back. There was a custody battle, but Emmily died before the two sides ever went to court.

"Emmily was acting up ... She was having a difficult time. She cried for Selena a lot?" MacPherson asked.

"For the first couple of weeks she did," Mendieta replied.

While being questioned by her own lawyer yesterday Mendieta blamed her former live-in boyfriend Johnny Bermudez for Emmily's fatal injuries.

Mendieta told the jury that Bermudez confessed to her on several occasions and this past summer revealed details.

Mendieta claimed Bermudez told her that while she was out picking up the other children, Bermudez lost his temper with Emmily, who wouldn't stop crying. He then struck her and then threw her into a television set.

Mendieta testified that Bermudez promised her he would tell the truth in court.

Bermudez could testify as early as Wednesday.

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