Author Frank Vaisvilas
A Chicago man had physically abused a 3-year-old Oak Forest girl in the past before killing her five years ago, a prosecutor said.
Jessie Rodriguez, 48, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Gina Presley. He was babysitting the youngster when the attack happened, said assistant state’s attorney Cheryl Galvin in her opening statement Wednesday to a jury at the courthouse in Bridgeview.
Presley had been in the care of her great aunt Kimberly Debartolo, who was dating Rodriguez.
“The whole world failed Gina Presley in her short three-year life,” Gavin said.
She said Debartolo may have failed Gina the most.
“It’s Kimberly who brought this man into her life,” Galvin said.
She said Debartolo and Rodriguez met through an internet dating site and had only been dating for three months.
Galvin said prior to her death, Gina had suffered from the stomach flu and Debartolo brought Gina to work with her on March 25, 2013.
Not wanting to bring Gina with her to work two days in a row Galvin said Debartolo left the child in the care of Rodriguez on March 26.
That night paramedics were called to the Oak Forest house because Gina was choking. She was pronounced dead at 12:15 a.m., March 27 at Palos Community Hospital.
Debartolo took the witness stand on Wednesday to corroborate prosecutors’ findings but Galvin said Debartolo took a deal for immunity from charges for anything she would testify to in court.
Galvin said the Cook County medical examiner’s office ruled Gina’s death a homicide after finding hemorrhaging on her brain due to blunt force trauma from child abuse.
She said there were old injuries and there were new injuries.
“The weapon that killed Gina is sitting in this courtroom right here,” Galvin said referring to Rodriguez.
Rodriguez’s defense attorney Patrick Campanelli argued that Gina had been abused before Rodriguez came into her life and her death was possibly the result of an old injury.
“It could’ve happened four days earlier or it could have happened a year earlier,” he said of Gina’s injury.
Campanelli said that Rodriguez, who has a daughter himself who was 10 years old at the time, had tried to save Gina during the call to 9-11 by administering CPR.
He argued that Debartolo’s family was dysfunctional and Gina was possibly abused by other family members.
“The state will not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt,” Campanelli said.
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