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Tragic details unfold through pictures

Crime: Prosecution paints chilling portrait of murdered girl’s family life

Posted: June 24, 2010 9:33 p.m.
Updated: June 25, 2010 4:30 a.m.
 

 

SAN FERNANDO — A crayon drawing done by a badly beaten boy three days after his 5-year-old sister was savagely beaten to death in a Castaic park bathroom gave jurors a glimpse into the children’s shared suffering Thursday as a murder trial continued.

On Nov. 15, 2004, Brian Saravia, then 6, remained silent when a doctor specializing in cases of child abuse asked him a few questions at the University of California Los Angeles Medical Center.

Dr. Claudia Wang was called as a witness Thursday at the murder trial of Antonio Rodriguez, 29, who is charged with rape, torture and murder in the 2004 death of Desarie Elizabeth Saravia, Brian’s sister.

“At first, he was pretty quiet,” Dr. Wang told a San Fernando Superior Court jury of her interview with Brian. “But I gave him some paper and crayons and asked him to draw me a picture.”

Prosecutor Mary Sedgwick used an overhead projector to show the jury Brian’s crayon drawing.

Dr. Wang used a pointer to explain it.

“It depicts a blue sky with clouds, green grass and flowers,” she said, then pointed to four stick figures on the “grass” that represented the Saravia siblings: Brian, Desarie and two older brothers.

She then pointed to the only stick figure to have loops drawn around the torso.

“This is his sister, second from the left. It’s his sister Desarie,” the doctor explained. “I asked him about the loops under her arms and he said, ‘She’s an angel, and these are her wings.’”

Evidence: 100 pictures
The pastoral drawing stood in marked contrast to a morning of forensic evidence detailing, with stark autopsy photographs, the vaginal and anal injuries suffered by Desarie in the moments before she died.

Over the last three days, prosecutors have entered almost 100 photographs depicting the battered, whipped and burned bodies of Brian and Desarie Saravia.

Dr. Wang testified that after she examined Brian’s drawing, she asked him to draw a picture of his home.

“He did not draw that picture,” she said.

Brian did, however, draw a second picture of himself.

Exhibit 91 entered into court and filed by the prosecution depicts a lone stick figure on a vast sea of purple.

“This is him,” Dr. Wang said, pointing to stick figure. “He’s in the middle of the ocean by himself.”

She then pointed to a figure poised over the Brian figure.

“He said this is his sister,” the doctor explained. “Desarie is an angel coming to get him. You’ll see he’s in the middle of the ocean by himself, and his sister comes and she’s an angel.”

Cause of death
Dr. James Ribe, senior deputy medical examiner with the county Coroner’s Office, said he concluded Saravia died as a result of multiple blunt force trauma at the hands of another person.

“There was tremendous force used,” he said.

Specifically, he said, the young girl — who was determined to have been malnourished and under-developed — died when a severe blow to her abdomen caused her small intestine to rip away from the inside of her body.

“To me, it’s more likely through kicking than punching,” Dr. Ribe said.

When her brother, Brian, was examined two days later by doctors at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, they feared he may be suffering similar life-threatening internal injuries and rushed him to UCLA.

He was monitored at the hospital for more than six days.

Photographs taken of his body revealed to jurors the same type of injuries seen on his sister’s body, including: burn wounds consistent with cigarette burns; “loop marks” left by a hard flexible object similar to an electric cord; lateral marks from an object with a hard flat edge; several bruises that Dr. Riba believed were delivered by punching; and other bruises inflicted by kicking.

Defense attorney Jack R. Stone, on cross-examination of Dr. Riba’s findings, asked repeatedly about the exact time the injuries were inflicted and whether Dr. Riba could distinguish between injuries inflicted by a male as opposed to a female.

Dr. Riba answered questions about time by saying forensics is “not an exact science” and that a significant amount of force was used in the beatings.

The mother of the siblings, Debby Saravia, is also in custody and is scheduled to be tried separately in her daughter’s death.

Debby Saravia and her boyfriend, Rodriguez, were bouncing around between the homes of friends and relatives at the time of Desarie’s death. Debby Saravia was reportedly working on Sturbridge Drive, near Hasley Canyon Park in Castaic, on the day Desarie was killed.

Prosecutors are expected to argue that Rodriguez took Desarie and Brian Saravia to that park, and that Rodriguez then raped and savagely beat Desarie in the women’s bathroom there.

The trial continues today.

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