Alexis Botello stood in front of a Tarrant County district court jury on Thursday morning and held a baby doll.
“Show us how hard he threw her,” prosecutor Melinda Westmoreland told her.
Botello stood there, and cried. So Westmoreland grabbed the baby and chucked it at the wall like it was a ball.
“Is that how he did it?” she asked Botello, her voice raised.
“No,” Botello said, sobbing.
Westmoreland picked up the doll, handed it back to Botello and again instructed her to throw it at the wall.
Botello tossed the baby, almost gently, before sitting back down on the witness stand.
It was the third day jurors heard testimony in the case against Botello, 21, who is accused of capital murder and tampering with evidence in the death of her 18-month-old baby, Tylea Moore, on July 4, 2014.
Jurors are expected to deliberate her fate this week.
Prosecutors said Thursday that their case against Botello isn’t about her physically assaulting the child. There’s no evidence of that. Their case against Botello is that as a mother, she “had legal duties to prevent what happened” and failed to get her daughter medical attention.
Botello was 17 when her boyfriend, Joshua Beard, 24, threw Tylea against a wall. He pushed the child, and stomped on her until she stopped breathing.
The couple then went to Walmart, bought shovels and gloves and buried Tylea in rural Parker County in the 1900 block of Sarra Lane — an area Beard was familiar with. Botello later took investigators to her daughter’s body, which was buried in a shallow grave under a bridge.
‘What’s your responsibility?’
The defense and prosecution painted very different pictures of Botello’s story.
Her attorney, J. Warren St. John, said Botello did everything she could to save her child. She allowed Beard — who was abusive toward her — to hit and sexually assault her in order to keep his attention away from the baby.
St. John said Botello was emotionally abused, and afraid for her life and the life of her child if she went to police or tried to leave Beard.
He had threatened to kill them, she said.
Botello wasn’t allowed to contact her family and wasn’t allowed to drive. Beard took her cellphone and her car keys. If she tried to clean the house, Beard beat her, she testified.
“He liked to choke me to the point where I passed out,” she said.
The house where they lived — in the 2200 block of Polo Club Court in Arlington — didn’t have water. So Tylea would be bathed every other day in a bucket with water purchased from a nearby store, Botello said.
But when Westmoreland questioned Botello, she focused on what Botello didn’t do, and the signs she ignored in the months leading up to her child’s murder. She argued that Botello had opportunities to leave — such as when Beard would go to the gym for two or three hours.
“What’s your responsibility in this death?” Westmoreland asked her.
“Not getting help,” Botello said. She later agreed with Westmoreland that she chose to put Tylea in a dangerous situation.
“You realize you could have prevented her death, right?” Westmoreland asked.
Botello and Tylea moved in with Beard in May. Twice before then, Botello said Beard had spanked Tylea because she wouldn’t listen to him. Botello said she confronted her boyfriend and told him that wasn’t his place. She said she pushed him and got in between her baby and Beard.
Westmoreland asked if it was true that Botello knew Tylea and Beard didn’t have a good relationship before they moved.
“I knew he didn’t like how I raised her,” Botello answered. She said she knew Beard was controlling and manipulative but she “wanted them to have a better relationship.”
Text messages between the couple showed a volatile relationship.
They cheated on each other, fought constantly and then one would beg the other not to leave, Westmoreland said.
Before Botello took the witness stand, her mother, Angela Sanchez, testified that she and Botello’s grandmother begged her to let them care for Tylea. Sanchez has two young children herself, she said.
But Botello refused to give them the child, Sanchez said.
Sanchez said she knew Beard was mentally abusive toward Botello.
After Botello moved in with him in May, Sanchez said she saw her daughter only a handful of times. She only saw her granddaughter twice.
July 4, 2014
Botello said she woke up around 3 or 4 a.m. on July 4, 2014, and heard Tylea crying. She saw Beard push the baby and hit her. But she got the child to bed and she and Beard fell back asleep. She said she woke up at 9 a.m. to Beard beating the child again. By 9:45 a.m., Tylea was dead.
But Westmoreland said phone records prove Botello’s recollection of the events aren’t accurate.
At 1:49 a.m., Beard called Botello. Westmoreland said this proves Beard left the house at one point, which is something Botello said she doesn’t remember happening.
At 2:30 a.m., Botello texted Beard and said, “They came,” referring to someone Botello sold weed to for Beard, Westmoreland said.
Then at 3:04 a.m., Botello texted Beard again and asked, “Are you coming home?”
At 4:45 a.m., there was another call between them.
Westmoreland asked how that is possible, if Botello says she woke up between 3 and 4 a.m. and saw Beard beating the baby.
Botello said she was sticking to the story she told investigators four years ago.
What is clear is that Beard — who was convicted in April of capital murder — began beating on Tylea around 9 a.m. While that was happening, Westmoreland argued that Botello could have grabbed the loaded shotgun that was lying in her bedroom. Botello said she was afraid of using it. She said she tried grabbing a bed post to hit Beard, but that he attacked her before she could.
Before they buried Tylea, Arlington police went to the house on a welfare check and spoke with Botello and Beard. Tylea was dead on their bed, Westmoreland said.
“Why didn’t you tell them that (Beard) killed your child?” she asked.
Botello said again that she was afraid.
After they buried Tylea and before police knew about the crime, Beard was arrested on separate drug charges. Botello spent the day trying to gather money to bond him out of jail. Again, she said, she was afraid to get help.
His aunt, Trina McKenzie, met with Botello at a hotel and when she asked where Tylea was, Botello said the baby was at a friend’s house. McKenzie testified on Tuesday that she knew something was wrong.
She made a frantic 911 call reporting a missing child. Botello would eventually tell police that her daughter was buried under a bridge.
When Sanchez asked her daughter later that day where her granddaughter was, she said Botello told her, “We’re going to dig her up tomorrow.”