Derron Alexis, 44, told the jury that he was against plans to have the girl live with him and his former girlfriend. He said he already had his hands full with his job as an airplane mechanic and taking care of Mary Mazalic, a woman who claimed to be disabled because of a myriad of health problems.
"I knew I couldn't be there to give her what she needs," Alexis said.
His mother and Mazalic were behind the arrangement to have the girl move to Washington from New York. He told jurors he was never in charge of the girl's care. He also said he never had any indication that she was being abused or needed medical attention.
Alexis testified for about three hours Monday. His mother, who sent the child to live with Mazalic and Alexis in 2010, also was called as a witness for the defense. Jurors likely will begin deliberations today.
Prosecutors allege that Alexis withheld the basic necessities of life from the girl. He is charged with first-degree criminal mistreatment. He also is accused of keeping the girl in a dog crate to prevent her from waking him up. Prosecutors allege that the crimes were particularly egregious because the victim's vulnerability.
Alexis denied harming the child.
The girl was removed from his home in 2011 after two clothing store employees called Child Protective Services, reporting that they were concerned for the girl's welfare after seeing her in the store with Mazalic. The girl was immediately hospitalized. She was severely malnourished.
The girl weighed just 51 pounds. Her body had lost nearly all its fat and had started metabolizing her muscles for energy.
Prosecutors also allege that the girl had scars from being whipped with electrical cords and burned with lit cigarettes.
A jury last year convicted Mazalic of child abuse. She is serving 30 years in prison.
Alexis on Monday denied that he and the woman were in romantic relationship when the girl was in his house. He said he'd broken things off with Mazalic several years later but they remained living together.
He was being paid by the state to be the woman's full-time caregiver. Caseworkers were told that Mazalic had diabetes, epilepsy and other medical conditions that required assistance.
Alexis never told the state that he worked full-time outside of the home. He also never told the caseworker that his adoptive sister had come to live with Mazalic and him.
The caseworker testified last week that it never crossed her mind that a child would be left in Mazalic's care. She had been told that Mazalic slept 18 hours a day and needed assistance going to the bathroom and bathing.
Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Lisa Paul grilled the defendant about the yearly assessments that were required so he could be paid to care for Mazalic. The reports stated that Mazalic couldn't cook for herself and that she needed help with everyday tasks. She was hostile and prone to mood swings, the report stated.
Alexis said that the report didn't reflect what he saw in the home.
Alexis also testified that he knew that Mazalic had been admitted to a psychiatric hospital in the past.
Paul asked Alexis why he didn't tell the state caseworker that a child was living in the home and that Mazalic was her full-time caregiver.
"She didn't ask," Alexis said.
The defendant said he never questioned Mazalic's ability to care for the girl despite the lengthy reports he saw from the state about her limitations and why he was approved to be her paid caregiver.
He said Mazalic's conditions improved when the girl came to live with them. He told jurors he was only involved with the girl's care when Mazalic asked him to be.
"I didn't want no part of it," he said.
Prosecutors reminded Alexis that when the case was first investigated he told a detective that he always made sure the girl ate and that she never missed a meal. The defendant told jurors that he misspoke when he told the detective he and Mazalic were both responsible for the girl's care.
The defendant's mother also testified Monday. Jurors were told that the New York woman sent the girl to live with Mazalic and her son because she didn't want the girl in special education classes anymore. She had adopted the girl and her two brothers. Jurors were told that the woman received about $53,000 a year from New York to house five children, including two who weren't living with the woman. She received about $800 a month for the girl. She sent $350 a month to Mazalic for the child's care, jurors were told.
The woman said she kept the other $450 a month because she still kept a room for the girl in her home. The woman continues to receive the money even though the child hasn't lived with her for two years, jurors were told.
The woman continues to fight to regain custody of the girl.
Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; firstname.lastname@example.org.
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