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Sandy father goes on trial in starvation, beating death of 3-year-old daughter

The paramedics found Alexis Marie Pounder dressed in zip-up pink pajamas, lying on her back, her body tattooed with bruises and scrapes. The three-year-old, known as Lexi, was underweight, malnourished and dehydrated when she died Jan. 9, 2010.

Her father, Donald Lee Cockrell went on trial Wednesday, charged with aggravated murder, murder by abuse and criminal mistreatment related to the death.

A Clackamas County prosecutor told jurors she would show that Cockrell starved, beat and tortured Lexi.

But he didn't act alone.

His fiancee, Michelle Nicole Smith, pleaded guilty last year to the murder and faces a minimum of 30 years in prison. As part of a plea deal, Smith will testify against Cockrell.

The trial is expected to last six weeks. Dozens of witnesses -- detectives, doctors, family members, social workers -- will take the stand, but Smith lays the foundation for both the defense and the prosecution.

Smith and Cockrell are the only adults who know what happened to Lexi.

The defense will portray Smith as an unreliable, unstable woman addicted to painkillers who cut a deal to avoid a possible death sentence. "Michelle Smith's testimony has been bought and paid for," said defense attorney Jenny Cooke.

Cooke said torture and mistreatment did not kill Lexi Pounder; the girl was ill and developed a pneumonia that took her life. The child had been losing weight but that wasn't apparent to Cockrell. Some bruises and abrasions were caused by routine childhood accidents or by one of Smith's children who jumped on Lexi's head and inflicted other injuries, Cooke said.

"He had done nothing to his daughter," Cooke said. There is no evidence that Cockrell struck Lexi other than Smith's allegations, she said.

"You're not going to like Michelle Smith," said prosecutor Christine Landers told the jury. Smith is "a terrible person" but she does not bear the full responsibility for the crime, Landers said.

Landers sketched Lexi's short painful life.

Lexi was one of five children who lived in the blended family. Smith and Cockrell, who met in 2008, each had two children from prior relationships and had one child together.

The family lived in a messy 700-square-foot mother-in-law apartment at Smith's parents' home in a rural area near Sandy. The older couple will testify at the trial.

Lexi's life was one of constant discipline and shaming. She was incontinent and always in trouble for soiling herself. When the family went to a fast food restaurant, Lexi would be the only one who didn't get a meal. She was forced to sleep on the floor or to run as a punishment.

In the days before she died, Lexi had diarrhea and dry heaves.

Lexi's sister, Kara Pounder, also faced serious but less severe consequences. Kara rooted around the kitchen, where the sink was piled high with dirty dishes, eating food off the floor or out of the garbage, Landers said. Cockrell and Smith forced Kara to sleep in a small escape-proof space, wedged between a couch and a wall.

Jurors got their first look at Lexi Pounder as Landers showed them photos. Lexi a happy infant, as a bruised toddler, as a skinny naked body on the medical examiner's cold metal table.

An autopsy concluded Lexi was the victim of homicide and battered child syndrome. The report detailed "dozens and dozens of injuries to her tiny, tiny body," Landers said.

The witnesses will be a couple of paramedics, each with 20 years or more experience, who answered the 9-1-1 call.

"This is what they saw," said Landers, showing jurors a photo of Lexi's lifeless battered face. "They've never seen anything like it."

Blood vessels in Lexi's eyes had burst, leaving her eyeballs red. She was dangerously underweight -- almost 3 1/2 years old, Lexi weighed just 21 pounds when she died.

When a detective interviewing Cockrell asked what happened to Lexi, "he has no explanation of why his child dead," Landers said. His answer, Landers said, was simply put: "I woke up and found my daughter dead."
How about life and a day for both of them?
Blood Valkyrie's avatar

Sparkly Shapeshifter

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Another day, another murder of a helpless baby.
I'm sad, but not surprised.
O_o-Dimensia_Juice-x_X's avatar

Friendly Wench

What is wrong with people? I can honestly understand why people murder each other (sometimes in rare cases.) But babies and toddlers? That's not fair, that's never fair.
I'm honestly surprised that there doesn't really seem to be a mainstream movement of people who want extreme child abusers sterilized. Like if they find someone has beaten and starved their kid to death they make sure they can't have another. Would just make to much sense, or maybe everyone's afraid the lefty's would extend it so that teaching your kid that homosexuality is wrong gets you sterilized too I guess.

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