Crime

Jury still out in Lacey child murder case

The jury is still out on whether Monique L. Hachtel will serve prison time for the death of her 2-year-old daughter in February. She is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree criminal mistreatment.

The court heard closing arguments from Thurston County Deputy Prosecutor Joe Jackson and defense attorney Richard Woodrow Tuesday morning after a weeks-long trial in Thurston County Superior Court. Judge Carol Murphy presided over the trial.

The jury began deliberating Tuesday afternoon, and will likely have a verdict in the next few days.

Hachtel, a 26-year-old Lacey resident, was arrested in February after her daughter was found dead, with severe bruising and internal injuries.

Since then, she has been held in the Thurston County Jail in lieu of $750,000 bail. Hachtel has no known criminal history, and could serve between 10 years, three months and 16 years, eight months for the murder charge. She could serve between four years, three months and five years, eight months for the mistreatment charge.

According to court documents, the child was found dead in a Lacey home in the early morning of Feb. 25. An autopsy later showed that the child had a lacerated liver, contusions on her kidney and large intestine and a skull fracture. She also had bruises on her face, arms, hands, abdomen and head.

During his closing statement, Jackson based his case on the timeline of events leading to the toddler’s death, arguing that Hachtel was the only adult who spent enough time alone with the child to cause the injuries. Woodrow argued that there wasn’t enough evidence to convict Hachtel and that one of the home’s other residents, Hachtel’s brother-in-law, had likely inflicted the injuries that killed the child.

At the time of the child’s death, Hachtel lived in the home with the child and her two other children: a 4-year-old boy and a 6-year-old girl, according to court documents.

Another family also occupied the home: Hachtel’s sister-in-law, her husband and their children. In total, 11 people lived in the home.

Hachtel’s husband lives in Mexico, and she had been living with the family while saving money to move there.

Hachtel told Detective Jamie Gallagher that she noticed bruising on the child’s stomach and pelvis on Feb. 21, but the child was too young to tell her what had happened, according to court documents. She also told Gallagher that the child began complaining of a stomach ache the same day, and that her abdomen appeared to be bloated.

She told detectives that the child continued to feel unwell for the next several days, and began throwing up a dark liquid on Feb. 23. She continued vomiting on Feb. 24, according to court documents.

Hachtel told Gallagher that she woke up at about 3 a.m. on Feb. 25 and found that the child wasn’t breathing, according to court documents.

Woodrow asked the jury not to convict Hachtel based on the emotions they felt after seeing photos of the dead child. Jurors should instead remember that Hachtel needed to be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, he said.

He introduced two doubts: there wasn’t enough evidence to convict the defendant, and the child could have been killed by the brother-in-law.

“The pictures are horrific, but what we’re going to show to you is that (the brother-in-law) did this,” Woodrow said.

One witness, Hachtel’s 6-year-old daughter, had seen the brother-in-law kick the deceased child, Woodrow said. The girl testified in court last week.

But Jackson said the child’s testimony wasn’t convincing, and that she had eventually said she hadn’t seen much because she was playing. He also said that there was no time during which the brother-in-law had been left alone with both girls.

Jackson also pointed to large inconsistencies in the story Hachtel told as the case progressed. Initially, she had told detectives that she had found the child dead. But in later tellings of the story, including the version she told in court, Hachtel said her brother-in-law found the girl dead.

He said Hachtel claimed to have changed her story because her brother and sister-in-law told her to, but Jackson argued that there wouldn’t have been time for that to happen.

“So when did this conversation occur? When was she told what to say?” Jackson asked. “Is she realizing that she’s in trouble and that she needs to point the finger?”

Woodrow pointed out that there had been inconsistencies with the brother-in-law’s story, too. For example, he had failed to mention a family gathering that had taken place Feb. 22.

He said that based on the testimony of an adult nephew, Hachtel had left the brother-in-law with the children for about 90 minutes while she helped her sister-in-law at work. During that time, the brother-in-law and his nephew had been watching a soccer game. The brother-in-law may have been upset by the game and taken out his aggression on the child, Woodrow argued.

“He did remember (the gathering),” Woodrow said. “He didn’t want to talk about it because he’s trying to hide something.”

“Look at him. Drinking beer, watching soccer, upset,” he added.

Woodrow said police focused their investigation on Hachtel instead of the brother-in-law because she’s “different.” He said she was raised in foster care and was in special education classes as a child.

“Instead they got Monique who is different,” Woodrow said. “She talks differently, she responds differently.”

The problem with Woodrow’s explanation, Jackson said, is that Hachtel admitted to finding bruises on her daughter before the family gathering.

“The only person who fits (the timeline) is Monique, Miss Hachtel, the defendant,” Jackson said.

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