On July 16, 2009, a 6-year-old autistic child was beaten to death in his Forsyth County home.
The trial for the man accused of attacking him, Eder Acosta, got under way Wednesday in Forsyth County Superior Court.
Acosta, who was 20 at the time, is charged with murder, felony murder, aggravated battery and cruelty to a child in the first degree in the death of Bryan Guzman-Moreno.
In her opening statement, Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Scalia contended that evidence will show Acosta often abused the boy and “that beating and abuse climaxed … when Bryan was beaten to death.”
Acosta’s attorney, Michael Saul, countered that his client is “not guilty of any and all charges.”
The opening arguments before Superior Court Chief Judge Jeffrey Bagley set the table for the trial, which could stretch into next week.
Bagley reminded jurors the defendant, who has pleaded not guilty to all four counts against him, is innocent until proven guilty.
Both parties agree Guzman-Moreno was fine when Acosta left the house at 6 a.m. to take Laura Moreno, his girlfriend and Guzman-Moreno’s mother, to work. But the stories differ from there.
Saul maintained that Acosta returned home about 15 minutes later to find Guzman-Moreno having difficulty breathing and tried to give him CPR.
When that failed, he rushed him to a hospital, where the boy later died as a result of blunt force trauma.
Scalia offered a different version of events, saying Acosta came home and beat the child to death with “an abandoned and a malignant heart.”
She also talked about the history of violence against the non-verbal child with autism. Because he could not speak, “Bryan couldn’t tell the terrible secret he was keeping,” that he was being abused by Acosta.
Scalia also told the jury to pay attention to the escalation of Guzman-Moreno’s behavior and the beatings, as they would be key during the proceedings.
She cited instances since Moreno and Acosta had begun dating of the state Division of Family and Children Services being called to the home.
First it was a leg injury, then a hand mark across the face. In a third report, Guzman-Moreno’s older brother said Acosta had hit his sibling.
But because Moreno didn’t speak English, Acosta would be the one to speak on the family’s behalf and he would lie, Scalia said.
“This defendant did not have the patience nor the wherewithal to take care of Bryan,” she said.
The defense maintains the violence came from David Moreno, one of the boy’s two uncles who also lived with the family.
Saul said David and his brother, Israel Moreno, were both in the home when Acosta took his girlfriend, their sister and the boy’s mother, to work and when he returned.
The attorney continued, contending Israel Moreno said he’s seen his brother hit the boy in the head and legs.
He also held up a photo of the boy, indicating David Moreno had initialed where he had hit the boy in the head and in the legs, but that he denied hitting the child in the stomach, the injury that ultimately ended his life.
“There is no evidence, no evidence whatsoever that Eder Acosta struck the final blow that caused [Bryan Moreno’s] death,” Saul said.
Guzman-Moreno suffered blows to the head and testicles, but it was the punches to the stomach that caused injuries to his pancreas and lower intestine and lacerated his liver.
After Acosta took Guzman-Moreno to Northside Hospital-Forsyth, the child was transferred to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta at Egleston, where he later died.