A Monroe County Court judge on Friday found Erica Bell guilty of both 2nd degree murder and 1st degree manslaughter in the beating death of 3-year old Brook Stagles, her boyfriend’s daughter.
The 25 year old Bell had opted for a bench trial, and Judge Christopher Ciaccio heard about two weeks of testimony from medical experts, law enforcement, as well as Bell's friends and family. Bell also testified in her own defense.
At the time of the death, Bell was living with Brook's father, Michael Stagles. He is charged with criminally negligent homicide and his trial begins on November 13.
Stagles died last November after complications due to blunt force trauma to the abdomen. Ciaccio said Bell inflicted those injuries when she punched the toddler three times in the stomach and then failed to get medical attention.
“She also caused the death by lying to several people as to what was wrong with [Stagles],” said Judge Ciaccio. “…her symptoms were described as zombie-like…lifeless. She wasn’t interacting like a normal child…not responding to questions, vomiting, bruising.”
He added Bell “actively resisted” getting help for Stagles, ignoring the suggestions of her mother and other family members who saw Stagles that day.
"She showed nothing through the whole trial,” said John Geer, Stagles’ grandfather. As Ciaccio read the convictions, Bell was largely emotionless. “I don't know what kind of person does that to a child but she's obviously beyond words,” Geer told reporters after the conviction.
Assistant District Attorney Sara Van Strydonck said the community can also play a bigger part in protecting local children.
“I hope that everybody in this community can make a pledge, make a promise to Brook that they will not be a bystander,” she said. “That if they see child abuse, they owe it to Brook to every child in this community to do something about it.”
Bell faces a possible sentence of 15 to 25 years in prison on the murder conviction and 5 to 25 years on the manslaughter conviction. Those sentences would be served concurrently.
Sentencing will be November 8.