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Abuse case likely to reach jurors Thursday


Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012, 5:15 p.m.

Abuse case likely to reach jurors Thursday

By Diana Hefley, Herald Writer

EVERETT -- The case against a Mukilteo woman accused of torturing and starving a fourth-grader is expected to go the jury sometime Thursday.

Lawyers planned to give closing arguments Thursday morning. That should wrap up their part in a week-long trial that included some unusual twists, including unexpected and potentially damning testimony from a witness called by the defense.

Mary Mazalic, 35, faces allegations of abusing her boyfriend's 10-year-old adoptive sister. The girl was suffering from severe malnutrition when police rescued her last year. She also had whip marks on her body.

The girl came to live with her brother and Mazalic in 2010.

Her adoptive mother, who lives on the East Coast, testified Wednesday that she sent the girl to Washington in hopes of having her enrolled in a mainstream fourth-grade class. School officials in New York had concluded that the girl needed special education.

Prosecutors allege that Mazalic isolated the girl, while also convincing people that the girl was a problem child with severe behavioral issues.

The girl testified last week that Mazalic whipped her with electrical cords and a wooden spoon. She also said the woman threatened her with a knife and a gun and burned her with a cigarette. The girl said that Mazalic had stuffed a ball in her mouth while she beat her. The child believed she was being punished for lying and stealing food.

Everett defense attorney Max Harrison told jurors in an opening statement Tuesday that his client wasn't responsible for the girl's injuries. He said that Mazalic's boyfriend used corporal punishment. He also disciplined the girl by making her do "extreme physical training," such as jumping jacks and sit-ups, Harrison said.

The attorney told the jury that Mazalic tried to stop the punishment.

The girl had testified that her brother hit her and was present when Mazalic beat her.

Both lawyers listed the girl's brother as a witness in the case against Mazalic. However, a question arose whether the man would invoke his right to remain silent so as not to possibly incriminate himself if he is later charged. He was never called to testify.

Instead, Harrison called on three of Mazalic's friends and the girl's adoptive mother. Two of her friends told jurors that they'd never seen Mazalic strike the child. They also testified that they'd seen the girl eat, although they said she could be picky about the food she wanted to eat and tended to have a sweet tooth. One witness reported seeing a stash of candy under the girl's bed.

The defense's case took a hit after one of Mazalic's friends had what he characterized as an attack of conscience on the witness stand. Harrison on Tuesday asked the man if he'd ever seen Mazalic hit the girl. The man appeared to be reluctant to answer the question, saying he was having some trouble.

The judge quickly ordered the jury out of the courtroom at the request of Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Lisa Paul. She said it appeared that the man was on the brink of revealing information that he hadn't disclosed to either lawyer before the trial.

The man was ushered off the witness stand and interviewed by Mukilteo police detective Lance Smith. He told the detective he'd seen Mazalic hold a utility knife to the girl's throat.

The witness hadn't disclosed that information during pre-trial interviews with the defense's private investigator or the detective.

On Wednesday, Paul was allowed to ask the man in front of the jury about the alleged incident involving the knife. He said he'd been reluctant to report what he'd witnessed because Mazalic is his friend.

"I made a bad mistake not saying anything a lot sooner," the man said. "I couldn't hold it back anymore."

Mazalic shook her head.

Diana Hefley: 425-339-3463; hefley@heraldnet.com.

2012 Sep 26