Photographs of a little girl who died and the conditions she lived in, and the memories associated, caused experienced doctors and police officers to break down on the stand during the first day of testimony in the trial of Erica Bell.
Bell is charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter in the death of three-year-old Brook Stagles, Bell's boyfriend's toddler daughter, who died in November 2016.
Dr. Kevin O'Gara was one of the first to treat Brook when she was brought into Rochester General Hospital. O'Gara says she was not breathing and had no pulse. After several doses of epinephrine, Brook came back to life. Dr. O'Gara says he was surprised she revived, because at first he said, "I thought I was looking at a corpse."
It was during his testimony that the court first saw pictures of Brook in the hospital bed. She had medical tubes coming out everywhere, and had bruises on her face, arms, legs, abdomen and back.
An Ogden Police Department officer who saw her that day also testified to those bruises and choked up remembering the details, as did Rochester Police Department Tech Courtney Carbonel, who photographed inside the house where Brook lived with her father, Michael Stagles, and Bell. Carbonel testified that house was dirty, with motorbikes in the middle of the living room, bugs and dirty dishes in the kitchen sink and kitchen walls, and clothes, medicine bottles and other junk strewn across the basement where Brook's bed was.
Carbonel also went to hospital to photograph Brook. Her wrenching testimony led to sobbing in the courtroom. Judge Christopher Ciaccio called a recess. When they came back, the prosecution and defense decided not to show the photos again in open court.
John Geer, Brook's grandfather, wants the case to force changes to Child Protective Services; changes he says were needed long before Brook's death.
"I'm just praying the system will be fixed, it can be somewhat reformed, they can actually do their job," Geer said. "They'll be able to get more workers, they won't have all the caseloads. They won't be the long hours. To be in that position to try and protect children, your hands are tied. With the present conditions right now, there's no way they can't do their jobs.
"By God's blessing right now, there hasn't been another tragedy. Children are suffering out there."