Today's Paper Newsletters LEARNS Guide Obits Distribution Locations Public Notices Digital FAQ Razorback Sports Crime Puzzles Today's Photos

Jury deliberates between life and death for Bella Vista father who murdered his 6-year-old son

by Tracy Neal | February 21, 2023 at 11:26 a.m.
Mauricio Torres appears in court Thursday, Feb. 2, 2023, for the start of jury selection in his trial. Torres is accused of capital murder and battery in connection with the death of his 6-year-old son in 2015. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Tracy Neal)

BENTONVILLE – A jury was deciding Tuesday whether Mauricio Torres should be executed for killing his 6-year-old son.

The eight men and four women started deliberations on the sentencing Tuesday after hearing instructions from Benton County Circuit Judge Brad Karren and closing statements from the attorneys.

The jury found Torres, 53, guilty of capital murder and battery last week in the death of Maurice Isaiah Torres. Isaiah died March 30, 2015, from an infection caused when a stick was shoved in his rectum. A medical examiner listed chronic child abuse as a factor in Isaiah's death.

Torres could be sentenced to death or life imprisonment without the benefit of parole for the murder conviction. He faces five to 20 years in prison for the battery conviction.

Torres said in a 2015 police interview he put the stick in his son's rectum, but later testified his son was holding the stick while doing squats. Torres said Isaiah fell on the stick, and it went inside his rectum.

The jurors saw photographs of bruises and wounds covering Isaiah's body.

Torres admitted he physically abused his son, but claimed his wife was responsible for most of the abuse delivered to Isaiah. Cathy Torres, 51, pleaded guilty in 2017 to capital murder and battery. She was sentenced to life imprisonment without parole.

Prosecutors presented testimony at the sentencing from Mauricio Torres' two adult children and adult stepdaughter he physically and sexually abused them as children.

Mauricio Torres pleaded with jurors to spare his life and not sentence him to death. He also told jurors about being physically and sexually abused.

Benton County Prosecuting Attorney Nathan Smith described the case Tuesday as an ugly and dark one. He told jurors he is sure some of them will never forget the images and testimony.

"Ladies and gentlemen, I'm not got going to make you look at these pictures again, but they represent the definition of torture," Smith said.

He told jurors the justice in the case was the death penalty, and he asked each juror to sign the form for death.

"A just sentence in this case for these crimes is the death penalty," Smith said. "I'm asking you to do justice for an abused and murdered 6-year-old boy name Isaiah Torres.

Jeff Rosenzweig, one of Torres' attorneys, asked the jury to spare the life of his client. He told the panel any one of them can spare his life because the decision has to be unanimous. Rosenzweig said Torres would spend the remainder of his life in prison and probably never see a child again.

He said the jury should consider the prosecutors never alleged Torres intended to kill his son.

"He didn't intend to torture," he said.

Rosenzweig said it was the jury's responsibility to determine justice.

Rosenzweig reminded jurors about Cathy Torres denied knowledge of the crime when she testified.

"Is it fair to execute Mauricio Torres when Cathy Torres was involved?" Rosenzweig asked.

He asked jurors to consider his client's past. One of Torres' aunts testified about seeing him repeatedly beaten when he was a child. Rosenzweig said Torres suffered from lack of self esteem he was love starved due to growing up without a mother and the abuse he suffered at a child.

"He could out run his family geographically, but not in his head," Rosenzweig said.

Rosenzweig said Torres is in his 50s and in poor health.

"He's a broken wretch of man," Rosenzweig said. "His life is in your hands. He can do good in a prison environment."

Smith had the final words to the jury. He said the death penalty is reserved for people like Torres who commit monstrous acts.

Mercy is important part of the law, but Torres refuses to admit to killing his son and abusing other children, Smith said. He said Torres had no sympathy or pity for his 6-year-old son, who was an innocent and vulnerable child. He told the jury the death penalty is appropriate even if Torres was abused as a child.

Benton County prosecutors listed three aggravating factors for seeking the death penalty in the case:

• Mauricio Torres previously committed another violent felony;

• The murder was committed in an especially cruel and depraved manner; and

• The murder was committed against a victim Torres knew was especially vulnerable because the boy was 12 years old or younger.

Some of the mitigating factors listed by the defense are:

• Torres is remorseful in his son's death;

• He suffered from post traumatic stress;

• He was abandoned by his mother and denied access to her;

• His wife received a life sentence for her crimes.

• He was conceived as result of rape or incest;

• He was exposed to civil war violence while a child in El Salvador;

• He was physically, psychologically and sexually abused as a child.

• He was a hard worker and was an occupational therapist and helped others recover from illness and injuries;

• He has skills to help others in prison;

• He suffered from morbid obesity.

• He did not intend for the death of his son and attempted to revive him; and

• He has provided spiritual assistance to other inmates in the Benton County Jail.

The jury must decide that one or all the aggravating factors out weigh the mitigating factors in order to sentence Torres to death.

It's the second time a jury has deliberated on whether Torres should live or die.

Torres, who is being held without bond in the Benton County Jail, was tried, convicted and sentenced to death in 2016 in his son's murder, but the state Supreme Court overturned the conviction in 2019 and ordered Torres receive a new trial.

A second jury found Torres guilty of murder and battery. The proceedings ended during the sentencing phase March 5, 2020, when a witness jumped from the witness stand box and attempted to attack Torres. A Benton County sheriff's deputy and a bailiff stopped the witness from reaching Torres.

Karren declared a mistrial and ruled Torres should have another trial. The Arkansas attorney general's office appealed, but the Arkansas Supreme Court agreed with Karren.

Print Headline: Prosecutor wants death penalty for Torres while the defense pleads for mercy


Sponsor Content