Jurors deliberated more than 4-1/2 hours Thursday before finding 47-year-old foster mother Delila Pacheco guilty of killing 2-year-old Alysa Horney last December.
The panel of seven women and five men recommended Pacheco serve a life sentence.
After the jury was excused, District Judge Darrell Shepherd ordered a pre-sentence investigation before formal sentencing.
Alysa’s mother, Holly Horney, wiped away tears outside the court room.
“It’s been really nerve-racking the past year,” Horney said. “I can’t even explain it.”
Horney said Alysa “suffered a night of hell” before she died. The toddler’s older sister has lost her best friend, Horney said.
Pacheco was led from the courthouse in handcuffs as her family and friends sobbed. As Pacheco passed by, Horney called her a “monster.”
Prosecutors Jack Thorp and Jacob Howell, in closing statements, encouraged jurors to use their common-sense when deciding the case.
“This case was about Alysa Horney, a 2-year-old little girl,” Howell said. “It’s about her life, her death.”
Prosecutors stressed to jurors that Pacheco was the only person in the family’s home to have access to Alysa throughout the night Dec. 7 and into the early morning hours of Dec. 8. They reminded the panel of the 40 bruises and scrapes on Alysa’s body, and the severe tear to the girl’s liver that caused her to bleed to death.
“That’s not an accident,” Howell said.
Defense attorney Angela Jones – who called no witnesses on behalf of Pacheco - recounted to jurors the testimony of each witness for the state. She told jurors the case was “about a lack of facts,” not about sympathy or emotion. She reminded the panel that “not a single witness” saw Pacheco harm Alysa.
Jones particularly questioned the statements made by Sheriff’s Investigator Casey Baker during an interrogation of Pacheco.
Baker, along with Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Dale Fine, repeatedly asked Pacheco to “tell the truth” in the interrogation, but Pacheco said time and time again she didn’t know what happened to Alysa.
“He called Delila Pacheco a liar,” Jones said of Baker.
During the recording, Baker asked Pacheco to give Alysa and her family “closure,” and seemed to get irritated as Pacheco continually said she didn’t know what happened to the toddler. At one point, Baker suggested Pacheco would one day be “judged” by God.
Jones later reminded jurors that Pacheco’s three children were also in the home when Alysa died. She said prosecutors failed to ask the forensic pathologist who conducted Alysa’s autopsy whether any of Pacheco’s children or her husband could have inflicted the blunt-force trauma to Alysa’s body.
Pacheco’s husband testified Wednesday morning through the use of an interpreter.
He told jurors that when Pacheco discovered Alysa’s dead body and yelled for him, he was “scared” and left the room while Pacheco called 911.
Jones said the testimony of Pacheco’s husband was “odd” and “unusual.”
“Maybe Mr. Pacheco realized what he had done,” she told jurors.
She then suggested Pacheco’s husband hid behind a “communications barrier” by using an interpreter.
“There were five grown people in that household,” Jones said. “There has been no evidence Delila Pacheco is the one that harmed Alysa. Could it have been one of the kids? That’s not a popular argument, but I have to make it. ... I don’t know what happened. Delila doesn’t know what happened.”
She told jurors there “is no way” the state provided enough evidence to convict Pacheco of murder.
But Thorp told jurors that investigators had ruled out other suspects, and that Pacheco told investigators her family members were not responsible for Alysa’s death.
“Who had the opportunity to commit the crime?” Thorp asked. “The bruises [on Alysa’s body] do not lie to you about what happened. ... Baby Alysa was killed.”
He told jurors that Pacheco’s husband used an interpreter as the “smoothest, cleanest” way to testify.
“Clearly we want the killer to go free, so we got an interpreter,” Thorp said in a sarcastic manner.
Thorp suggested Pacheco, having been up with Alysa into the early morning hours of Dec. 8, finally “snapped.”
“This was anger,” Thorp said. “This was getting sick and tired of not being able to go to sleep.”
Thorp said the case wasn’t about Pacheco, but about the death of Alysa.
“This case is about that baby – that baby that caused Casey Baker to go about nuts on that [interrogation recording],” Thorp said. “Casey knew that child had received that type of injury.”
Thorp asked jurors to sentence Pacheco to life in prison without the chance of parole.
Authorities have said Pacheco agreed to be a foster parent to Alysa and her older sister a few months before Alysa died. Pacheco and Alysa were also relatives.