Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Stoddard Children Could Testify

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Stoddard Children Could Testify

Article excerpt

AUTISTIC GIRL'S DEATH: Prosecution names a long list of potential witnesses

SARASOTA

The fate of a couple accused of torturing and ultimately killing their 11-year-old autistic daughter could rest on the testimony of three of their other children, including one who is only 7 years old.

Kenneth and Misty Stoddard's children were among the more than three dozen witnesses prosecutors said they expect to call to testify in their upcoming trials in connection with the death of Melissa Stoddard, who died after she had allegedly been tied up and duct-taped in 2012.

Misty Stoddard faces the most serious charge -- first-degree murder -- while Kenneth Stoddard is charged with aggravated manslaughter and tampering with evidence. The couple is also charged with aggravated child abuse with great bodily harm.

During a 90-minute hearing Wednesday, Prosecutor Karen Fraivillig named a lengthy list of potential witnesses she might use -- including a 17-year-old boy, 10-year-old girl and a 7-year-old boy from the Stoddards' blended family.

The numerous witnesses Fraivillig said she intended to call during the two trials, including Melissa's former teachers, EMTs who first responded to the scene and the medical examiner, stood in stark contrast to the number of witnesses and exhibits the Stoddards' attorneys said the planned to introduce at trial: zero, other than possibly the Stoddards themselves.

The attorneys -- Eric Reisinger is representing Kenneth Stoddard and David Taylor is representing Misty Stoddard -- also protested the children testifying because they said their age might make them incompetent during the trial.

Melissa's siblings told detectives that the Stoddards routinely punished the girl harshly, including taping her arms and whipping her.

"She gets spankings from Mom and Dad," one child told detectives, according to court documents. "They have lots of belts."

Another sibling recalled Melissa being bound on the porch while her family members were eating inside, or being removed from the pool and tied up in her wet clothes in her room. …

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