Trial in death of Waimea toddler delayed
Trial for a 47-year-old Waimea woman charged with the 2017 murder of a Waimea toddler has been continued for three weeks until a legal challenge can be resolved.
Chasity Alcosiba-McKenzie was indicted by a Kona grand jury in October 2019 in connection with the death of 3-year-old Fabian Garett-Garcia. She has pleaded not guilty to the single charge of second-degree murder, which is punishable by life in prison with the possibility of parole.
Alcosiba-McKenzie opted for a bench trial, which means there is no jury, and Circuit Court Judge Wendy DeWeese will decide her fate.
Trial continued for a second day Tuesday with former Honolulu medical examiner Christopher Happy taking the stand as a state witness to produce evidence that led him to rule Garett-Garcia’s death a homicide.
Happy testified the Hawaii County medical examiner sent him a consult request to examine specimens from Garett-Garcia’s brain, spinal cord and eyes. Happy said the specimens showed hemorrhaging close to the brain and optic nerve, which could be explained by a number of reasons, the highest being trauma.
He then explained how the procedure for preparing microscopic slides was completed, including staining of the samples to interpret them. Happy then stated one of the samples was sent to a lab in St. Louis, Missouri, for staining for amyloid precursor protein, which he used to determine manner of death.
Deputy Public Defender James Greenberg immediately objected stating the defense was not given information that the sample was sent to a mainland lab, that chain of custody had not been established and there was no record of the lab even being accredited. He asked DeWeese to strike Happy’s testimony.
After a brief recess and consultation with the prosecution and defense, DeWeese postponed the trial until Sept. 1 to sort out the matter.
“We do not have a jury. I want to make sure it is fair for all sides,” said DeWeese. “The interest of justice requires this pause.”
The state contends Garett-Garcia died at the hands of Alcosiba-McKenzie. Defense argues it was just a tragic accident.
Garett-Garcia died at 7:54 p.m. July 25, 2017, at North Hawaii Community Hospital, just 37 minutes after emergency responders got the initial 911 call reporting an emergency involving the toddler at a Hoohoa Street home in Waimea. Hawaii Fire Department personnel reportedly found “Fabian lifeless and lying face down beside a pool of his own vomit on a bed” in the residence.
Police arrested in August 2018 Alcosiba-McKenzie, who was the boy’s caregiver, on suspicion of attempted second-degree murder and later released her. Charges were not formally filed until an October 2019 indictment, which states Alcosiba-McKenzie intentionally or knowingly caused the death of Garett-Garcia including voluntarily omitting to obtain reasonable necessary and available medical service.
Alcosiba-McKenzie has been free on supervised release since her arrest following the indictment.
Meanwhile, a wrongful death lawsuit filed in April 2019 by Garett-Garcia’s parents Sherri-Ann Garett and Juben Garcia against the state Department of Human Services, Catholic Charities, state-licensed caregivers Chasity Alcosiba-McKenzie and Clifton McKenzie and others, continues. A motion providing additional time for the plaintiffs to submit a pretrial statement was extended in March.
Alcosiba-McKenzie — whom the state licensed, appointed and compensated to provide temporary custodial care for children — told responders the bruising was caused by a fall from a 3-foot bench, according to the suit.
No trial date has been set for the civil litigation.
The civil suit is seeking unspecified monetary damages, which Attorney Jeffrey Foster, counsel for Garett-Garcia’s parents Sherri-Ann Garett and Juben Garcia, previously said would be determined by a jury.
Clifton McKenzie has not been arrested or charged with a crime in connection with the incident, and is only a defendant in the civil litigation.