SAN DIEGO (CNS) - An 8-year-old girl testified Wednesday that her mother kicked her older sister in the stomach shortly before the older girl died.
Crystal Cardenas, 26, is charged with murder and felony child abuse in the death of 9-year-old Elizabeth Holloway on Jan. 17.
The victim's sister, Amari, testified in a preliminary hearing that Cardenas kicked Elizabeth while she was on the bedroom floor. She testified that a person she referred to as her father, Lorenzo Castillo, was telling Cardenas to stop.
Prosecutor Lindsey Krause said there is no family relationship between Amari and Castillo, but that she views him as a father figure.
Elizabeth was declared dead at a hospital about 90 minutes later. An autopsy show she died of blunt-force injuries.
Castillo, the victim's 28-year-old uncle, is charged with child abuse causing a death.
Amari testified that after her mother kicked her sister, Cardenas put her hand over Elizabeth's mouth as she threw up.
"There was lot of times she threw up," Amari testified. "I said (to Elizabeth), you're probably gonna die."
When asked about the kicking by defense attorney Megan Marcotte, Amari said "I saw it with my own eyes."
Amari testified that Cardenas burned Elizabeth with an iron in a separate incident after Elizabeth accidentally burned her younger sister with the same iron.
Amari said her mother told her to lie to social workers about what happened.
A 13-year-old neighbor girl testified that she saw Cardenas slap Elizabeth in the face and hit her with a closed fist in the arm as they walked home from school.
Krause said Elizabeth came to live with her mother about 17 months before she died.
A few days before her death, Cardenas punched the girl in her abdomen, bruising her pancreas and part of her intestines, Krause said, adding that the 9-year-old suffered a slow and painful death.
The family moved into the Milbrae Street apartment just south of Mount Hope Cemetery shortly before the girl's death, police said.
Cardenas' other children -- including a 1 1/2-year-old son -- were taken by Child Protective Services, authorities said.
Cardenas faces 25 years to life in prison if convicted. Her husband could get up to 10 years.
At the end of the preliminary hearing, Judge Kerry Wells will decide if enough evidence was presented for the defendants to stand trial.
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