munizford

Melinda Muniz, left, was arrested Jan. 28, 2014, and charged with capital murder in the death of Grace Ford, right.

**This story was updated throughout the week. Continue reading for the latest, day-by-day coverage of the trial.**

Grace Ford loved Mickey Mouse, singing and the color pink. She also loved Melinda Lynn Muniz, her father’s fiancé, her caretaker and the woman charged with suffocating the toddler just weeks before her third birthday.

Muniz, now 26, is on trial this week for the capital murder of Grace, who was found unconscious in her bed Jan. 9, 2014, her face covered in duct tape. She was taken off life support three days after Plano police believe Muniz staged a home invasion in the Eastside Village apartment she shared with Grace and Mitch Ford, the girl’s father.

Muniz was arrested Jan. 28, 2014. If convicted, she faces life in prison without parole. She has pleaded not guilty.

On Monday, a jury of six men and eight women was selected from a pool of 115 potential jurors. Two jurors are alternates.

Day One: Jan. 27

In Tuesday’s opening statement, prosecutor Zeke Fortenberry painted the jury a verbal picture of the three stories he says Muniz gave to police about what happened in apartment 331 that led to Grace’s death.

Fortenberry said Muniz first told police that an intruder broke into the apartment, hit her on the head, put duct tape on her mouth and sexually assaulted her. After it was determined the intrusion was a hoax, Muniz said she had amnesia and could not remember the last two years. The third story Muniz told detectives was that she and Grace were doing arts and crafts and the toddler must have put duct tape on herself; scared, Muniz then staged a crime scene and hit herself in the head with a pan, Fortenberry told jurors.

Fortenberry said Muniz, who Grace referred to as “mom,” never asked about the girl’s condition in the hours and days following the crime. Instead of referring to the child by name, Muniz referred to her as “some little girl” or “some girl that I babysat” during the investigation.

“Plano police caught her in lie after lie after lie,” Fortenberry told the jury.

Defense attorney Robbie McClung, however, told jurors the case is not as cookie-cutter as prosecutors presented.

"They want you to connect the dots for a pretty picture,” she said. “I may open your eyes to some things they don’t want to deal with.”

Emergency 911 dispatcher Diane Williams was the first of 46 witnesses called on by the state to testify at the trial, which is expected to last into next week. Williams said she received a call from Mitch Ford at 1:38 p.m. Jan. 9. Ford told her he was on the phone with Muniz when he heard the phone hit the ground and screaming.

Officers David Waddell, Antonio Arredondo and Camille Bowie were dispatched to the apartment on J Place where Ford believed something had happened. As the officers arrived, Ford pulled up in his red pickup truck. He testified that he immediately left work at Mercedes Benz of Plano when he got disconnected from Muniz. Ford used his key fob to gain access to the building. The apartment door was locked.

“When I realized the door was locked, I realized the bad guy was still in that apartment,” Waddell said, testifying that he asked Ford to unlock the door so officers could enter with weapons drawn. “I saw a female lying on the living room floor, two barstools knocked down on the right-hand side and a red chair turned over on the side where the female’s feet were. The female was lying on the rug in front of the couch right next to an overturned coffee table, face down. Her pants and underwear were pulled around her ankles.”

As officers looked for an intruder and cleared the apartment, Waddell testified that as he rolled Muniz onto her back and removed the duct tape from her mouth, her eyes were twitching “like she was trying to keep her eyes closed.” When the duct tape was removed, Muniz yelled “get him out of here,” and described the intruder as a white male wearing a black jacket and boots.

Waddell said Muniz told him she was punched in the face multiple times with a closed fist, but that he noticed no swelling or injuries consistent with that type of attack.

Bowie testified that as she tried to communicate with Muniz, who had been moaning and writhing on the ground, she asked the defendant to sit up and explain what happened.

“She took a big breath and kind of gently fell to the floor as if she had fainted,” Bowie said. “Her eyes were kind of fluttering, like she was trying to keep them shut forcefully. There’s no movement in the eyes and body when someone faints – if you really faint, you’re not going to gently place yourself. I felt like it wasn’t genuine.”

Muniz told Bowie she and Grace were in the car on their way to get her engagement ring resized when she realized she had left the ring at home. After returning to the apartment and locking the door, an intruder entered the apartment, forced her down, sexually assaulted her and punched her several times in the face, Muniz told police.

“She said he kept hitting her, but I didn’t see any visible injury,” Bowie testified. “There was no real emotion on her face … I couldn’t see any real duress.”

As Waddell and Bowie tended to Muniz, Arredondo found Grace facedown in her bed, wearing just a shirt. He said she was not responsive or conscious, and when he rolled her over and checked her pulse, he found duct tape firmly across her mouth, cheek to cheek.

“I picked Grace up and put her in my arms, pulled the tape off and laid it on the bed,” Arredondo testified. “Her eyelids were turning color and her lips were blue and purple. She did not have a pulse. I held her close to my face to see if I could feel any breath, and started doing chest compressions.”

Arredondo called for Waddell to assist, as he called dispatch to send an ambulance. They did not get a pulse or any signs of life from Grace, he said.

About four minutes after being dispatched, Chris Raney, a Plano Fire-Rescue firefighter/paramedic, arrived at the scene with five other emergency personnel, he said. Raney prepared an IV and administered two rounds of epinephrine in an effort to restart Grace’s heart as his crew took over CPR. He testified that they left the apartment at 2:03 p.m. and arrived at The Medical Center of Plano at 2:07 p.m. Grace remained unresponsive during the eight minutes she was in their care.

After Raney, the state called Dr. Richard Honaker, emergency physician with The Medical Center of Plano, to the stand. Honaker said Grace was unresponsive, very pale, not breathing and had dilated pupils when she arrived at the ER. She was intubated and given another dose of epinephrine, which started her heart.

As his staff attempted to insert a catheter, they noticed tears, bruising and blood in her vaginal region. A decision was made to transport Grace to Children’s Medical Center Dallas for sexual assault evidence collection.

“I believed Grace had been sexually assaulted,” Honaker testified. A CAT scan indicated swelling in the brain, and a V-shaped abrasion was noted on the right side of the child’s back. Photographs of the abrasion and the injuries to Grace’s genitalia were shown to the jury.

At 3:26 p.m. – about 75 minutes after her arrival – Grace was transported via ambulance to Children’s in Dallas.

“Even on discharge she was a very critical patient,” Honaker said. “We had certainly improved the situation, we had gotten her heart beating and she seemed to have more cerebral activity, but she was still extremely critical.”

Plano PD Detective Daniel Tyler and Officer Chad Blumrick – who collected Grace’s shirt and two socks at the ER as evidence – followed the ambulance to Children’s, as instructed.

Ford took the stand, telling the jury about his relationship with Grace’s mother, Emily Reeves Ward, whom he dated for seven years after meeting in 2001 during their senior year of high school. Ford joined the U.S. Army after graduation and deployed to Iraq in 2005. Their relationship continued, and the couple married shortly before his second deployment in 2009.

When Ford returned from Iraq after his second stint overseas, he said their marriage became strained and ultimately ended after Ward became addicted to alcohol and prescription pills. Shortly after the couple divorced, Ward found out she was pregnant, and the couple briefly reconciled and remarried “for the insurance.”

Grace was born Feb. 24, 2011; Ford gained full custody in 2013.

In September 2012, Ford said he met Muniz at Mercedes Benz Plano, where they both worked. They began dating and moved in together in January 2013. A few months later, Muniz, having quit her job, became Grace’s caretaker. Ford proposed in December 2013.

Ford said that on Jan. 8, 2014, the night before the murder, the couple’s relationship changed when, in an effort to silence Muniz’ phone while she slept, he discovered racy photos and videos his fiancée had sent to her personal trainer. The next morning, he ended his relationship with Muniz.

“As I was getting ready for work, I let her know I found that stuff on her phone,” he testified. “It wasn’t a big argument or anything. I said it wasn’t going to work and called off the engagement. She was kind of unemotional, like it wasn’t really a big deal. There wasn’t a fight. I provided everything for her. I told her she had a week [to move out]. She could keep the engagement ring and sell it and keep the car to drive around and look for jobs. She didn’t cry, didn’t appear angry.”

Ford said he left for work around 11:45 a.m. and immediately began the search for a nanny or day care for his daughter. He said he tried calling and texting Muniz several times to discuss childcare options, but got no response.

“I was worried about Grace, honestly,” he said. “[Muniz] normally doesn’t not call or text back.”

Around 1:30 p.m., Muniz called Ford, telling him she just got back to the apartment with Grace.  He heard the phone drop and Muniz screaming before getting disconnected. Twelve minutes and one 911 call later, Ford pulled up to the apartment complex as police arrived.

Although officers did not allow Ford into the apartment, he testified that he saw firefighters take Grace out but was not allowed to go with her because he was a suspect. He saw Muniz taken out, but received no response when he asked her if she was OK.

Ford said he was questioned at the Plano Police Department, just blocks away from the crime scene, and released. He then drove to Children’s Medical Center to see Grace.

“She looked horrible. She was in a neck brace and hooked up to a bunch of machines,” he said, visibly upset, on the witness stand. “She was unconscious.”

Ford said he drove back to Plano to visit Muniz in the hospital and then returned to Children’s, where he spent the first of three nights in his truck in the parking lot. Three days later, Grace was removed from life support. Ford said her death drove him to “drink a lot.”

Several days later, Ford said he met Muniz at Razzoo’s Cajun Café in McKinney. She seemed not to recognize him and said she had amnesia, according to Ford’s testimony.

When the defense asked Ford why he left Grace in Muniz’ care following the breakup, he said he “just wanted [Grace] to have the same routine.” He said Grace had grown close to Muniz, and he wanted to transition her into day care.

“That’s what hurt me most about the [breakup] – it’s not just me; it affects my daughter, too,” he said.

Ford said he began contacting Muniz in an attempt to get answers, even volunteering to wear a wire. He said when he visited Muniz in the hospital and asked what happened, she told him “she felt like she had lost her soul.”

The last witness on the first day of trial was Detective Cathy Stamm, whose testimony continued Wednesday morning.

Prosecutors played an audio recording of Stamm’s interviews with Muniz at the apartment, in the car en route to the hospital and at The Medical Center of Plano. Crying, Muniz is barely audible as Stamm asks questions about the alleged attack.

Day Two: Jan. 28, 2015

Stamm was released after she finished her testimony, and the State called Deborah Davis, a women’s health nurse practitioner, to the stand. Davis performed the sexual assault exam on Muniz, and said during the head to toe assessment she noted where Muniz indicated tenderness.

“Other than her verbalizing, I saw nothing to indicate any sexual assault,” Davis testified. “The defendant didn’t seem emotional, was pretty quiet and very cooperative.”

Davis said that although it did not appear Muniz had been sexually assaulted, that does not mean she was not assaulted, just that there were no injuries.

Plano PD Patrol Sgt. Christer Matthews took the stand next, and said when he arrived at the apartment complex Jan. 9, he began canvassing the area to locate anyone that may have witnessed the incident. Matthews contacted Jennifer Meier, a stay-at-home mother who lived below Ford and Muniz at the time.

Meier testified that she had just put her son down for a nap when she heard two loud thuds from the apartment above her around 1:10 p.m. Thinking someone might have been moving in or out of the building, Meier looked out the window, expecting to see a moving truck. Instead, she saw an ambulance pull up. Minutes later, she saw Grace carried out by paramedics.

Another neighbor, Andrew Fifield, lived across the hall from Ford and Muniz. He testified that he saw Muniz coming up the stairs as he was leaving around 12:30 p.m. Familiar with the couple, whom he frequently saw in passing, Fifield greeted Muniz.

“She had her head down and seemed distraught,” he testified. “Something was obviously bothering her.”

Property Manager Christine Nordberg said a key fob assigned to Muniz indicated she accessed the gate closest to her apartment at 12:18 p.m., 1:04 p.m. and 1:18 p.m. on Jan. 9.

Surveillance video from the 15th Street/K Avenue intersection, showing Ford’s red pickup at 11:52 a.m. and Muniz’ black Mercedes at 12:42 p.m., was played for the jury.

Detective Beth Spillman testified that during the approximately four hours CSI processed the scene, zip ties were found in Grace’s room and underneath the couch, as well as a roll of duct tape and scissors.

In a search warrant executed Jan. 9, detectives discovered Muniz’ Samsung Galaxy Note 3 cellphone. During a forensic extraction of the cellphone, several photos and videos were found of the defendant in lingerie or a bikini. One video, not played in the courtroom, shows Muniz doing a striptease dance to music, according to police.

At 11:55 a.m. Jan. 9, Muniz sent Ford a text that read, “I love you so much,” according to phone records. At 12:17 p.m., Ford responded with, “So when do you want to move out?” After a 17-minute phone conversation, in which Ford said they discussed childcare for Grace, several calls and texts to Muniz went unanswered. At 1:36 p.m., Muniz called Ford to say she had just gotten home. Ninety seconds into the conversation, Muniz dropped the phone and screamed, prompting Ford to call 911.

Detective Bill Washington collected two laptops during the search, and used software to analyze them. During a review of a MacBook, Washington searched the words “duct tape,” “kill,” “Benadryl,” “suffocate” and “staging.” “Duct tape” and “kill” came back with news articles mentioning the words; the other three words yielded no results.

Defense attorneys argued that any person with access to the computer could have looked at the articles in question.

On Jan. 14, Sgt. Stan Roady went to Dollar Tree at 15th Street/Alma Drive and asked Store Manager Veronica Elshire to look up a specific transaction. Elshire said she gave him a copy of a receipt from 12:56 p.m. Jan. 9 in which duct tape, nylon cable ties, kitchen shears and cotton swabs were purchased.

Elshire pulled surveillance video, which showed Muniz enter the store carrying Grace, put the child in a shopping cart and push her around the store as she shopped.

Detective Fred Garcia retrieved the video from six cameras at Dollar Tree, pieced together Muniz’ movements through the store and created a spliced video. He testified that at 12:49 p.m., Muniz and Grace enter the store, and at 12:57 p.m. they leave after Muniz purchased the items prosecutors believe were used to kill Grace.

Day 3: Jan. 29, 2015

During a recorded interview at Plano City Jail after being arrested for capital murder Jan. 28, 2014, Melinda Muniz told detectives she "freaked out" when she found Grace Ford unconscious in bed, her mouth covered in duct tape.

In this version of the events that culminated in Grace's suffocation death, Muniz said she had purchased duct tape, scissors, zip ties and cotton swabs from Dollar Tree for an arts and crafts project. As she began cleaning, she said Grace must have gotten scared, thinking Muniz was about to vacuum, so she ran to her bedroom and taped her mouth.

Detective Chris Jones comforted Muniz, who sobbed as she told him she didn't hear Grace anymore, so she went to check on the child and found her unconscious.

"I know I did the wrong thing – I could have helped her," Muniz said during the interview. "She was lying there; she put tape on her mouth. I think she got scared. I thought she was sleeping."

Muniz then admitted she staged the home invasion and sexual assault to cover up what she considered a horrible accident.

"He would never forgive me," she said about fiancé Mitch Ford, Grace's father.

Jones told Muniz he believed Ford would forgive her if it was an accident, but only if she told the truth about what happened at apartment 331.

"Science was our friend in this," Jones said. "I need the truth. I think you put the duct tape on her mouth. A little girl wouldn't put duct tape on her mouth to where she can't breathe."

Muniz explained that she donned gloves and partially removed the duct tape from Grace's mouth to see if she was OK. When it was clear Grace wasn't breathing, she panicked and put the tape back on. Then, as Grace lay unconscious, she gathered the scissors, zip ties and duct tape and disposed of it in a Dumpster across the parking lot, she said.

A key fob assigned to Muniz recorded her entering the complex at 1:18 p.m. Muniz waited until 1:36 p.m. to call Ford, giving her about 18 minutes to come up with a story, hit herself on the head and stage the scene, according to police.

"I see somebody who snapped for a couple minutes," Jones told Muniz. "Someone who got mad, frustrated ... that's what the evidence tells me. Everything points to that you snapped and made a horrible decision."

In an interview recorded the night of the incident, Jones asked Muniz about her relationship with Ford, which supposedly ended that morning amid allegations of infidelity between Muniz and her personal trainer.

Muniz, barely audible, said she didn't take Ford seriously when he broke off the engagement, even when he told her to move out.

"I was sad, but I was giving him time to get over it," she told Jones and Detective Robyn Busby. She said she went about her day, occasionally checking her phone but not responding to Ford's attempts to contact her.

As inconsistencies in her account mounted, Jones stopped Muniz.

"I'm going to be straight-up honest with you: There are issues with your story," he said. "You brought up that Grace had duct tape on her when that was never mentioned. How did you know if you were unconscious?"

Jones also questioned the timeframe, saying the six minutes between the 911 call and authorities’ arrival was "not realistic" for an intruder to physically and sexually assault two people.

"You keep playing this game, Mindy, and the entire world is going to see you as an evil monster who killed this little girl," Busby said in the Jan. 28, 2014 interview. "It looks like this was intentional."

After Muniz asked Busby to leave the room, Jones took a different, more empathetic approach.

"If you didn't intentionally do this, then you accidentally did," he said. "I don't want to walk out of this room and tell people you're a cold-blooded killer. People make mistakes all the time."

Muniz said she "didn't know" if it was accidental or intentional.

"Yes, you do," Jones said. "If you ever go before a court, a jury, people are not going to by this story. This isn't Florida; this is Collin County, Texas. The first night you came and talked to us, you told us everything we needed to know. You were at Dollar Tree 40 minutes before. Will you tell us what happened?"

Muniz, visibly upset, said she could not tell the truth, because Ford would not forgive her.

"Does it even matter at this point?" she said about the truth, indicating she’d already been arrested.

Jones told Muniz that people needed closure and that they would "understand if you made a mistake." Seemingly unconvinced, Muniz asked, "If it was a mistake, then what now?"

In his time as a detective dealing with sensitive issues such as child abuse, Jones said he has learned that treating a defendant with respect is a tactic used to get them to open up.

"Until this happened, you took great care of [Grace]," Jones said. "People need closure, and you're the only one who can do it. I like to see that you're emotional about this. Emotion shows me that there's a heart left."

As Muniz fidgeted in her chair, she said she didn’t “snap” and wasn’t trying to get attention.

“If I tell the truth, no one will believe it,” she said. “I’m not lying about most of it; there’s some things I really don’t remember. There wasn’t an escalation or anything. I’m going to be in jail forever.”

Bridget Muniz, the defendant’s mother, took the stand at about 4 p.m. Thursday, as prosecution played an audio recording of a phone conversation between her and her daughter after the arrest.

When Melinda, referred to by her mother as Mindy, asked if Bridget had spoken with Ford, Bridget responded, “His daughter is dead because of you. I’m not going to talk to Mitch.”

Bridget said the family didn’t feel safe and feared Ford might retaliate. She sounded upset when Muniz said she had “kind of” confessed about the arts and crafts tragedy.

“I don’t know if a jury is ever going to believe that, Mindy,” Bridget said. “If she couldn’t breathe, she would have taken it off. Tell the truth, Mindy. You did it – you did the cover up. They’re going to push that it wasn’t an accident. This is Texas – they could go for death.”

The last witness to take the stand Thursday was Plano PD Criminalist Supervisor Michelle Boubel, who processed the crime scene.

Boubel used Gentian Violet, a staining solution, to detect fingerprints. She testified that a lip impression and fingerprint were found on the strip of duct tape in the living room: the piece that was allegedly across Muniz’ mouth.

A roll of duct tape was found in a cabinet above the stove in the kitchen, but no identifiable fingerprints were found on the roll. Boubel said the strip of duct tape in Grace’s bedroom bore “nothing of forensic value” and no fingerprints.

Other items collected from the apartment included Muniz’ cellphone, a pair of children’s underwear, zip ties, shears, an unopened box of cotton swabs, Dallas Cowboys duct tape and black gloves found in a Nordstrom bag.

Boubel said she collected a long-sleeved Hello Kitty shirt, two white socks with pink ruffles and bedding from Medical Center of Plano.

Testimony is set to resume at 8:30 a.m. Friday.

Day 4: Jan. 30, 2015

Taking the stand at about 9:30 a.m., Dr. Kristen Reeder, of the REACH Clinic (Referral and Evaluation of at Risk Children) at Children's Medical Dallas, testified about her examination of Grace Ford.

Reeder said she was one of multiple doctors awaiting Grace's transport from Medical Center of Plano on Jan. 9. Considered a possible sexual assault victim, Reeder examined Grace for sexual abuse and noticed redness, irritation and a tiny blood clot.

Based on the examination, Reeder testified that these were "nonspecific, inconclusive findings for sexual abuse," since other factors - such as hygiene, potty-training and catheter insertion could have caused the injuries.

"She had been intubated and was unresponsive, which tells me she had significant brain damage already," Reeder testified. "The fact that she was laying completely still and unsedated indicated a severe brain injury."

Reeder said she noticed a v-shaped bruise or abrasion on the back of Grace's right shoulder, which is a "strange place for a child to have an injury."

Grace was diagnosed with a severe hypoxic brain injury caused by lack of oxygen. On Jan. 11, doctors performed a brain death test, which indicated that there was no brain activity present. A radiological test showed that no blood was flowing into Grace's brain. The tests were redone the following day, and Grace was declared clinically brain dead on Jan. 12.

When asked what could have caused the brain injury, Reeder testified that suffocation, not strangulation, resulted in Grace's hypoxia.

"By age 2 or 3 children breathe with their nose and mouth," she said. "A normal 2- or 3-year-old would be able to remove duct tape."

Reeder said if a child had a runny or stuffy nose and was unable to breathe out of the mouth, it could possibly lead to suffocation due to insufficient oxygen intake.

Dr. Joni McClain, who performed the autopsy on Grace, took the stand next. She concluded that Grace's cause of death was "homicidal violence, including suffocation." The manner of death was homicide.

McClain also testified that although "the area around her hymen was a little hemorrhagic," there were no tears or lacerations. She said she could not say that Grace was sexually assaulted based on her findings.

Several of Grace's organs, including her heart, were harvested and donated.

After a two-hour recess, Jill Cramer and Barbara Leal, senior forensic DNA analysts at Cellmark Forensics, took the stand to testify for the state.

Cramer testified that vaginal and anal swabs from Muniz' sexual assault kit tested positive for semen, believed to be Ford's. No semen was found on Grace's swabs. Leal said she performed Y-STR testing, which only looks for male DNA, on the samples. This test - which can't uniquely identify an individual - also indicated that the DNA was from Ford or a male relative.

DNA analysis from the zip tie located in Grace's bedroom indicated that Muniz and Grace came in contact with it. No DNA profile was obtained from the zip tie found under the living room couch or the duct tape roll found in the kitchen cabinet, Cramer said.

The duct tape strip found in the living room had DNA from Muniz and Grace, the latter of which Cramer said was likely secondary transfer DNA. Only Grace's DNA was found on the strip of duct tape in the little girl's bed, something Lead Detective Robyn Busby said she believes is because Muniz admitted that she wore gloves, which were found during a search warrant.

During her testimony, Busby said that although she assigned detectives to canvass the area shortly after the incident, her initial thought was that something didn't add up with the story Muniz spun to the police.

"Some of the things she had been saying contradicted what I saw at the scene," she said. "It seemed to be orderly, the placement of things, not strewn around like the violent attack that was described."

In photos shown to the jury of the crime scene, Busby points out a martini glass and several pinecones on the floor in the entryway of the apartment. She said if Muniz was pushed toward the living room like she said, these items should have been knocked in the same direction, not located on the floor below the counter they originated on.

A table appeared to be picked up and moved slightly to the side, yet a glass of water on top of the table had not spilled, Busby said.

"Her phone was perfectly dropped between two barstools near the martini glass that shouldn't be where we found it," she said.

Busby went through a detailed timeline based on cellphone records, video surveillance and key fob records, which confirmed Ford was at work when Grace was suffocated.

"My opinion is that the murder occurred sometime between 1:04 p.m. and 1:18 p.m. when I believe she had dumped some of the items used in the murder," she testified.

When asked about the zip ties found in Grace's room, Busby said she thinks Muniz had tried to make "little baby handcuffs" by looping the ties together. Grace's hands were not bound when first responders found her.

Busby said she believes the v-shaped mark on Grace's right shoulder could have been made from Muniz holding Grace down as a pair of kitchen shears or scissors were pressed into her back. 

The shears purchased at Dollar Tree were not located, since Muniz did not tell detectives about them until about three weeks after the crime.

"I believe Grace sat down to take her shoes off, the defendant grabbed her, dragged her to the bedroom, suffocated her and then staged the scene," Busby said. "I think she intended to get rid of the zip ties but left one, which we found."

This scenario indicates that Muniz suffocated Grace prior to putting the duct tape across the child's mouth.

After Busby's testimony, the state rested its case.

Proceedings will continue on Monday as the defense presents its case beginning at 8:30 a.m. 

Once the jury was dismissed, the defense held a hearing regarding the testimony of Muniz, who said she will testify next week. The defense indicated that the defendant wants leeway in her testimony regarding CPS and the baby boy she gave birth to in October, while the prosecution said this information isn't relevant to Grace's murder and my alter the focus of the jury away from the case at hand. 

The defense argued that an incident that happened to Muniz at the hospital after she gave birth led to her silence, which is relevant. Attorney Robbie McClung did not want to hint at her client's upcoming testimony, but prosecutor Zeke Fortenberry did it for her.

Fortenberry said Ford showed up at the hospital after Muniz gave birth and saw her walking through the maternity ward. Outraged, he made a scene and was removed from the hospital.

Judge Rusch then asked Muniz about her plans to testify, informing her that she has the right to testify or to not testify, but if she goes on the stand, she will likely be asked difficult questions that she will be required to answer.

 

Day 5: Feb. 2, 2015

After about 45 minutes of deliberation, the jury returned a guilty verdict. Melinda Muniz received a life sentence without parole.

For continued coverage, follow Brittany Feagans on Twitter.

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