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Child-killer’s chaplain proclaims trust during death-penalty phase

Crime: Counselor vouches for character; sister describes troubled childhood

Posted: July 20, 2010 9:33 p.m.
Updated: July 21, 2010 4:55 a.m.
 

SAN FERNANDO — A chaplain who spent “hours and hours” with child-killer Antonio Rodriguez, sometimes talking about God, told jurors in Superior Court on Tuesday that she trusts him.

“I trust him, and if he tells me he’s going to do something, he keeps his word,” Patricia Bartlett said on the witness stand.

A jury recently found Rodriguez, 29, guilty of sexual assault, torture and murder in the Nov. 12, 2004, beating death of 5-year-old Desarie Elizabeth Saravia.

The same jury must now decide if he should receive the death penalty.

“I knew him very well,” Bartlett said. “The things we talked about are, of course, confidential. ... He kind of trusted me with his life.”

Bartlett said Rodriguez was angry when he was placed in protective custody at the Men’s Central Jail.
“He didn’t want to be there,” she said, adding she saw Rodriguez about every other day inside jail.

During cross-examination, prosecutor Mary Sedgwick asked Bartlett about her talks with Rodriguez.

“We talked about God, if that’s what you’re asking,” she said.

But, Sedgwick wanted to hear about violence, kicking and punching.

“I never saw him misbehaving,” Bartlett said. “And they all kick each other in jail. They all punch each other.”

When Bartlett was finished describing Rodriguez as a man who loved his family, defense lawyer Robert A. Schwartz called another one of the seven Rodriguez siblings to the stand.

Marina Rodriguez was reminded as she took her place on the witness stand that a box of tissues had been placed in front of her.

Other siblings who have testified for the defense have broken down when confronted about their childhood stories of growing up with a belt-wielding abusive and alcoholic father.

“When your father was in the home, tell us what it was like growing up,” Schwartz asked her.

“It wasn’t enjoyable,” Marina Rodriguez said quietly. “It’s not a place any kid should grow up in. I would stay after school
just so I didn’t have to go home.

“When he would get drunk, which was every day, he was abusive, telling us ‘Do this, do that,’” she said. “The females were like bitches to him. He would beat us. She (mother) was the first. He would drag (her) by the hair, sock her.

“We would run into the other room and hide under the bed, or hide in the bathroom and turn the lights out,” she said. “He would hit us, hit us with a belt, throw things at us.”

The father left the family when Marina Rodriguez, now 33, was 11 or 12, the jury was told.

“Are you afraid of him?” Schwartz asked.

“No,” she said without hesitation.

“Were you?” the lawyer asked.

“Yes,” she said.

Desarie Saravia was pronounced dead at Henry May Newhall Memorial Hospital Nov. 12, 2004, after failed attempts to revive her. She had been beaten, whipped and burned.

She died after having been punched or kicked with extreme force in her abdomen that caused severe internal damage to her small intestine, the court learned during the trial.

Rodriguez assaulted and killed her in single-stall public bathroom at Hasley Canyon Park in Castaic.

The girl’s mother, Debby Saravia, was reportedly working in Castaic, cleaning a home there, and is expected to be tried in connection with her daughter’s death.

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