On Tuesday, the woman charged for the death of three-year-old Brook Stagles testified in court. Erica Bell told the courtroom that she was abused and raped as a child and has been using drugs since the age of 14.
On Tuesday, the woman charged for the death of three-year-old Brook Stagles testified in court.
Erica Bell told the courtroom that she was abused and raped by her mother’s boyfriend as a child. She admitted to using marijuana and cocaine at the age of 14, and later oxycodone and heroin.
In court, Bell said she went from using heroin on the weekends to using all week, and that she suffered withdrawal when she didn’t use heroin. Bell also discussed going to drug court, inpatient drug rehab, and a halfway home.
Bell then went on to describe her relationship with Michael Stagles, Brook’s father. Bell says Stagles was controlling and violent. She testified that Stagles would burn her with cigarettes, hit her, and choke her. Bell also said that Stagles pressured her to have sex and would beat her if she did not go along.
During testimony, Bell denied ever hitting Brook. She testified that Michael Stagles punched Brook, who looked sick the next morning. Bell said that Stagles was concerned that Child Protective Services (CPS) might want to return Brook to her mother. She also said that CPS had investigated one time when Brook came home from a visit to her mother with marks on her neck.
Bell also testified about calling Brook’s grandmother. She said Stagles arranged to have it look like they were taking Brook to the hospital, when in fact they went to get drugs instead. According to Bell, Stagles put makeup on Brook to hide bruises on her face. Bell stated that Brook hit her face on a faucet while brushing her teeth.
The defense played Bell’s phone conversation from jail, in which she states: “I didn’t do that.” In the recording, Bell says Stagles punched Brook, and that she was afraid that Stagles would kill her if she told anyone. Bell also said in the recording that Stagles “jabbed” Brook three or four times but that she seemed “fine.”
In the recording, grandmother Debbie Smith asks Bell why she took the blame. Bell told her she “didn’t know it would come to this” and that Stagles was afraid of CPS. Bell said if she is jailed, Stagles should be as well.
Bell began crying in the recording and said Stagles didn’t mean to hurt Brook and that he is just “a violent person.”