Judge to rule in mom’s murder trial on Monday

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – A key witness for the prosecution took the stand Wednesday, in Candace Cartagena’s murder trial.

Dr. Kim Collins, a forensic pathologist, testified that the cause of death of 8-year-old Bianca Cartagena was asphyxiation, and that the child, in her opinion, was the victim of a homicide. She also testified that Bianca’s heart was normal.

The defense’s only witness, Dr. Jonathan Arden, had testified that Bianca had a diseased heart and died suddenly from a previously undiagnosed condition.

Wednesday morning, Dr. Collins said most children who suffer from dilated cardiomyopathy have severe symptoms in early childhood, but that Bianca’s medical records indicated she was healthy and active.

Dr. Collins testified there were indications that pressure had been applied to Bianca’s head and chest to deprive the child of air. The prosecution is asserting Bianca’s mother may have used a pillow to smother her daughter.

During closing arguments, prosecutor Thomas Finnerty told Judge Thomas Franczyk in the non-jury trial that, “The person that should have been Bianca’s caregiver, her mentor, her mother, was instead her murderer.”

He said Candace Cartagena was in a jealous rage as her marriage and her relationship with her daughter were deteriorating.

“Fueled by anger, jealousy, rage, and in a process of self-destruction and self disintegration, the defendant took away the life of her own daughter,” said Finnerty.

Bianca’s body was found in her mother’s East Amherst home in November 2010, just days before she was to go to Disney World with her father.

Defense Attorney Joseph Terranova argued the child died suddenly of natural causes, and not at the hands of her mother.

“There is no proof that she caused the homicide of her daughter,” said Terranova. “The proof in this case doesn’t show that. There is no proof beyond a reasonable doubt that that’s the case, and the court must acquit my client.”

Finnerty said Bianca struggled for air during her last moments of life. Terranova contended there were no convincing indications that a struggle had taken place.

Judge Franczyk said he will reach a verdict by 2 p.m. Monday.

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