ENID, Okla. — A 29-year-old woman accused of child abuse testified Friday in her defense in the fifth day of her trial.
Mirella Salas Morales
Mirella Salas Morales spent nearly three hours on the stand recounting what she said happened the morning of May 3, 2018.
Salas Morales is accused of shaking a 5-month-old boy in her care that day and was charged with a felony count of child abuse by injury. She faces from a year to life in prison and/or a fine of $500 to $5,000. She was charged May 5, 2018, and has been held in lieu of $500,000 bond since.
Salas Morales' attorney Tim Gungoll questioned his client, through an interpreter.
She said at the time she, her partner and two children lived at their home at 806 E. Cedar.
Gungoll asked her how she came to care for then 5-month-old Alan Corona.
"His mom, Alan's mom, asked me if I knew of anyone who could take care of her baby," she said.
Salas Morales said she told Corona's mom, Maria Amador Salina, she knew someone but could not get in touch with that person so she decided to do it. She said this was in January 2018.
She said on May 3, 2018, Amador Salina dropped off Corona around 8:30 a.m. and the boy was asleep. She said he woke up about 9:20, and she fed him a jar of baby food.
"How was Alan's appetite on that day?" Gungoll asked.
"That day, what I noticed he was kind of down, not enthusiastic like on other days," Salas Morales said.
She said she noticed he did not eat as much as normal and said he was tired throughout the day.
Salas Morales said she put the boy back in his car seat for about 15 minutes after he ate. She said she was tending to her son Ailan in that time.
Gungoll asked, "Was Ailan a calm baby?" "Yes," Salas Morales said. "Did he cry a lot?" Gungoll asked. "No," she said. "Did he keep you up all night?" Gungoll asked. "No," Salas Morales said.
He asked the same questions about Corona. Salas Morales said he was a good baby and did not cry excessively.
Gungoll asked Salas Morales about her stress, if she had problems with her partner or financial trouble.
"What was your stress level at that time?" he asked. "I did not have stress," she said.
Gungoll asked Salas Morales about telling police she bumped into the fridge while holding Corona.
She said she hit the fridge on her left side but was holding Corona with her right arm.
"I've always tried to remember how things happened," she said. "At the time they were asking several questions, a lot of questions by several people."
Gungoll asked Salas Morales if she told police it was possible there was some impact on her right side. She said she did. Gungoll asked her why.
"The cabinets. It's a very narrow entryway," she said. "There could be a way I could not feel I hit it."
She said three or four times the police asked her about hitting the cabinets.
"Did they tell you it was necessary to tell them something else for the health of the baby?" Gungoll asked. "Yes," Salas Morales said.
Around 11:30 a.m., Salas Morales said she fed Corona a bottle, noting how tired the boy appeared. She said he fell asleep and she laid him on the sofa.
Salas Morales said she began to clean and later could smell Corona soiled his diaper. She sat down next to him on the couch with a fresh diaper to change him. That is when she noticed something was wrong.
"I grabbed his little feet. His little feet were stiff," she said, almost crying. "I kept touching his whole body and his whole body was stiff."
Salas Morales said she took the boy into her arms and called his mother.
Gungoll asked if any other part of Corona's body were stiff or of anything else was unusual.
"Yes, his little arms. His gaze, his eyes were closed. He was trying to open them but he couldn't," she said. "He was struggling to breath. He was not breathing normally."
Gungoll asked Salas Morales how she felt.
"I got really scared. I did not know what was going on with the baby," she said. "Have you ever been that scared before?" he asked. "No. I have never had a problem like this," she said.
Salas Morales said it was less than a minute after finding Corona before she called Amador Salina.
She said Amador Salina called first responders because she did not speak English. Salas Morales said Amador Salina hung up and called for help. Salas Morales said she tried to call her back twice before she answered again.
She said Amador Salina asked her if she tried to wake the boy up or if she had moved him.
"I kneeled down with the baby in my arms. I moved him. I moved Alan on the floor," Salas Morales said. She said she lifted the baby under his arms and moved him three times.
Gungoll asked if the baby's head moved back and forth or from side to side. She said it did not.
"Did you do anything intentional to delay or hide the fact Alan was having these problems?" Gungoll asked. "No," Salas Morales said.
"How did you treat Alan compared to your other children?" he asked. "I would treat them both the same," she said. "To me, they were both my children."
When asked by Gungoll if she ever harmed Corona, she said she did not.
"Did you shake Alan with enough force to cause a seizure?' Gungoll asked. "No," Salas Morales said.
"Did you shake Alan with enough force to cause his legs to go stiff?" he asked. "No," she said.
"Did you shake Alan with enough force to cause him to not breath right?" he asked. "No," she said.
Gungoll asked Salas Morales about being questioned by police to use a scale of one to 10 to demonstrate how hard she shook Corona. He asked her if she understood what police were asking. She said she did not.
"I confused two words," she said. Salas Morales said she confused strength or strain for effort.
"I did attempt a 10 in effort to make sure he was well, just as any mother would have done," she said.
Assistant District Attorney Michael Oglesby asked Salas Morales if she was ever stressed by the two babies crying. She said she was not.
He asked if Corona cried or made any noises indicating any trouble. She said he did not cry but made a few nosies.
Oglesby asked,"Are you sitting here today denying you shook baby Alan?" "I did not shake him," she said. "I moved him."
Gungoll called Juana Sanchez, a friend of Salas Morales who spent time with her when she was watching Corona.
Sanchez said she would hang out with Salas Morales and go shopping, helping her carry one of the two babies' carseats.
Gungoll asked her if she ever saw Salas Morales stressed out around the kids. Sanchez said she hadn't. He asked if she ever saw Salas Morales scream, get physical or lose her patience with the children. Sanchez answered no to each of the questions.
On cross examination, Assistant District Attorney Sean Hill asked Sanchez if it was fair to say she did not want to see anything bad happen to Salas Morales. Sanchez said, "Yes."
Hill asked Sanchez about Salas Morales getting angry or upset. Sanchez said she'd never seen Salas Morales get upset.
"Are you saying the defendant has never been mad a day in her life?" Hill asked. "She is not like that," Sanchez said.
Gungoll also called Salvador Alvarado, one of Salas Morales' former employers.
He said he recalled a time she had to bring her daughter to work. "I could see Mirella handle the child accordingly," Alvarado said.
He described her as always being happy and social person.
Following the three witnesses, Associated District Judge Jack Hammontree told jurors after a meeting in chambers it was decided to allow the state to present a rebuttal witness Friday.
Hill called Linda Manuel-Reyes to the stand. She was hired to translate the interview conducted May 3, 2018, by police with Salas Morales.
Manuel-Reyes said she was certified by the supreme courts of Oklahoma and Arkansas and works mostly with the Northern District Federal Court in Tulsa.
Hill asked Manuel-Reyes to repeat her thoughts about Salas Morales confusing the words when asked to give officers a one to 10 scale they discussed earlier.
"I did say it was ridiculous because they are entirely different words," she said. "We're talking about how she's moving the baby, correct?" Hill asked. "Yes," Manuel-Reyes said.
The trial resumes at 9 a.m. Monday with the defense presenting two expert witnesses.