BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – The defense in the Candace Cartagena murder trial is trying to prove the mother’s eight your old daughter died of a heart condition. Prosecutors say Candace murdered Bianca and then feigned an attempt on her own life.
Defense Attorney Joseph Terranova brought in pathologist Dr. Jonathan Arden from Virginia as his one and only witness. Dr. Arden said his review of the autopsy findings on Bianca Cartagena determined that the child died suddenly and naturally as a result of a pre-existing heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy.
Defense Attorney Joseph Terranova told reporters “Bianca had a diseased, enlarged heart which caused her sudden death.”
During cross examination, Prosecutor Thomas Finnerty again and again drove home the concluding autopsy results. He kept raising the possibility that Candace had put a pillow over her child’s head and exerted compression on Bianca’s chest to cause her death. Prosecutors are going for a 2nd degree murder conviction.
During opening statements on June 9th, Prosecutor Kristen St. Mary told Judge Thomas Franczyk “It will be glaringly clear that Bianca suffered through a struggle before she died.” She said Candace had been going through a painful divorce and abusing drugs and alcohol. “She is in a rage,” said St. Mary, “and she takes it all out on Bianca, silencing her, intentionally silencing her, depriving her of any air until she died.”
Defense attorney Terranova noted that initial autopsy results said the death could have been accidental. He maintains the findings were changed after the medical examiner was pressured by Bianca’s relatives and Amherst police detectives.
“They prevailed upon the former medical examiner in Erie County to change her opinion,” said Terranova outside the courtroom on Monday, “and thereby got an indictment. That’s exactly what happened.”
Prosecution witnesses have said Candace lied in e-mails and other communication with her family after Bianca’s death.
The prosecution is expected to call one more witness Tuesday morning. Closing arguments in this non-jury trial are expected Tuesday afternoon.