A mother and aunt offered testimony Tuesday morning in the trial of the man accused of abusing a 14-month-old boy in 2017.
Vito Asaro, 32, of Lawton, who is on trial for a charge of felony child abuse, remained seated beside his defender, Dustin Phillips, of Oklahoma City, in District Judge Emmit Tayloe’s courtroom as Mahaylee Fixico shared her memories of her son, Aiden. She’d been seeing Asaro about six weeks when, on Nov. 18, 2017, she received the call her son was in a local hospital. He would soon be transferred to Oklahoma City for care.
Asaro had been babysitting the young boy when he called 911 because Aiden had stopped breathing. Asaro told authorities the child had passed out and fallen head first onto the floor. But when the boy was taken to OU Children’s Hospital, doctors said his injuries were more likely caused by abuse. They told investigators that a simple fall would not have had enough force to lead to injuries that severe.
Mother recalls bruises on toddler
Assistant District Attorney Jill Oliver provided Fixico opportunity to speak of her son’s injuries. Photos of bruising to the boy’s head were shown to the mother. Investigators asked her about the boy’s bruising and she said she went through her memories as to what bruises he had before she’d left work. The head and back bruises weren’t there, she said.
“I was trying to picture how Aiden hit his head on the rail,” she said, “but I couldn’t.”
Fixico told Oliver she’d never seen Asaro be aggressive or angry with Aiden. But, she said, she had no way of knowing what he did while watching the boy when she was at work. She knew something was odd that day in November, however, because Asaro told her the boy only drank two cups of milk.
“He always had a cup with him,” she said. “That was unusual.”
Phillips cross-examined Fixico and questioned her about statements she’d made to Lawton Police Detective Johnathon Santiago about Aiden’s bruising. She had told him that Aiden did have some pre-existing bruising before he was hospitalized.
When asked if Aiden would hit himself in the head with a toy lightsaber, Fixico said he did. Phillips noted the doctors found “multiple instances of brain bleeds over a period of time,” but the mother denied they were self-inflicted or her fault.
“He never left a bruise, though,” Fixico said. “No, he’s never hit his head enough to brain bleed.”
Fixico’s sister, Felicity Drewery testified to seeing Asaro around 7:30 p.m. Nov. 18, 2017. Drewery, her wife and two kids delivered a couch to Asaro’s house and helped move it into the garage. She said she didn’t see Aiden, Asaro greeted them outside the home. He told her Aiden was “inside asleep” when asked what the boy was doing.
“I did find it odd (he was already asleep),” she said. “His mother worked at night and he’d usually stay up.”
Drewery said she saw Aiden the night before when they all met at the mall. The boy was “a little bit cranky” but “got happy” when he saw his cousins. She didn’t see any bruising on the boy’s head that night. She also saw Aiden with his shirt off while changing his clothes and said there weren’t bruises that were later noted by investigators.
When Fixico called her the night of the incident, Drewery said she raced to meet her sister and nephew at the hospital. She admitted the toddler was clumsy — he was beginning to walk and said it was something to be expected. What she saw at the hospital, however, came out of left field.
“Never as many (bruises) as I saw that Saturday,” she said.
When Oliver asked if her sister could hurt the boy that bad, Drewery replied “never.”
During the cross-examination, Drewery admitted she’d never seen aggression or violence from Asaro. If anything, he was too lenient, she told Phillips.
“He seemed nice,” she said. “I said he was going to spoil Aiden. I remember saying he wouldn’t even let him cry.”
The sister said the short-term of the relationship between her sister and Asaro made her uneasy about his keeping her young nephew.
“I didn’t think anything was wrong,” she said, “but it made me nervous.”
When asked about statements made to police about Fixico’s parenting style, Drewery called it “lax and chill.” She admitted her sister wasn’t as on the ball as she would be, citing a diaper rash problem Aiden had. But her sister wasn’t neglectful or abusive, she said.
“No, I’ve not seen suspicious bruises,” she said.
Phillips asked Drewery if it’s not suspicious for a 14-month-old to be covered in bruises and she replied “no.”
“Fourteen-month-old children are learning to walk and they’re clumsy,” she said. “There are times there are lots of bruises.”
Drewery was led back to her initial interview with Detective Santiago. Phillips asked her about using the words, “I think she loves him” and “I don’t think she’d hurt him” when questioned by police about Fixico’s relationship with the boy.
With hands over her face to mop up tears, Drewery said she didn’t know what happened to Aiden after seeing him last around 8:45 p.m. Nov. 17, 2017. But when she was him at the hospital, she was sure of one thing in her mind.
“I know my sister didn’t hurt him,” she said.
The trial will resume around 8:30 a.m. today.