Fraga guilty on all five counts; sentenced to life in prison without possibility of parole

WORTHINGTON – A jury late Wednesday night came out of five and a half hours of deliberation to declare Josue Fraga guilty on all five charges against him in the murder of his 2-year-old niece Samantha. The verdict was delivered at approximately 8:16 p.m. and Fraga was sentenced by Judge David Christensen to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Fraga faced counts of first-degree murder while committing criminal sexual conduct with force, first-degree murder while committing child abuse, first-degree murder while committing domestic abuse, second-degree murder while committing criminal sexual conduct and second-degree murder while committing a first-degree assault.

Following their guilty verdict, the jury headed back to the jury room for approximately five minutes to return with the affirmation of eight aggravating factors, including the vulnerable age of the age of the child, violations of a victim by a person in a position of authority over her, multiple forms of penetration and failure to seek prompt medical attention.

As the verdict was read, Fraga showed little reaction, hanging his head and staring at nothing, occasionally gulping as he fought tears. Several of the jurors also looked to be near tears, others watched Fraga’s reaction to their verdict. Many looked anywhere but at Fraga.

Fraga was convicted of the first-degree murder of Samantha in 2009, a conviction later vacated due to new evidence coming to light. Unlike after the sentence in which Fraga used an opportunity to speak to declare his innocence, he answered with a quiet “No” when asked if he wanted to speak on his own behalf Wednesday night.

When asked if he had comment before the sentencing, Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Bill Klumpp, who prosecuted Fraga both times at the request of the Nobles County Attorney’s Office, said that circumstances in the state of Minnesota called for life without parole, but had comments to make for the record in case the law for first-degree murder ever changed.

“This was a horrific act against a 2-year-old child – the victim was, in fact, tortured by the defendant…” Klumpp said. “He turned Lot 25 (at Sungold Heights Trailer Park) from what should have been warm and welcoming to a house of horrors.”

Public Defense Attorney Cecil Naatz said only that he was disappointed in the verdict, and he intends to file for an acquittal.

After the verdict was read and jurors dismissed following a grueling week and a half of testimony and statements, Worthington Det. Sgt. Kevin Flynn had little to say other than a small statement.

“Nobody wins,” he said, shaking his head. “Nobody walks out of this a winner, and nothing that went on will bring her back.”

Nobles County Attorney Kathy Kusz said the prosecution was pleased with the verdict.

“We feel that justice was served,” she added.

Naatz plans to file a motion of acquittal, and will also discuss an appeal with his client.

Fraga opted not to testify on his own behalf during the trial, leaving his entire defense to last approximately 6 minutes after more than 40 witnesses and six days of testimony for the prosecution.

During closing statements, the state and defense took turns telling their sides of a story full of assault, degradation and lies, based on testimony, fact and truths.

Minnesota Assistant Attorney General Bill Klumpp said on the night of Samantha’s murder, Fraga sneaked into his children’s bedroom, like he had so many times before, and pulled his own 11-year-old daughter from her bed for sexual purposes. When she refused his advances, Fraga allegedly dragged her into the bathroom, duct-taped her to a chair and tortured her young cousin in front of her, inflicting head trauma, rupturing her stomach and molesting her.

After sending his own daughter back to bed, Klumpp said, Josue Fraga molested the toddler, putting his hand over her mouth to silence her cries of pain.

In defense attorney Cecil Naatz’s version, Fraga’s 13-year-old son Josue David did the sneaking, assaulting and molesting.

“She started out life with problems,” Naatz said, reminding the jury that Samantha had been born premature with disabilities, had lost her mother to death at a tender age and been removed from her father’s custody after he took up with a woman with drug issues. “After being put in the custody of her aunt and uncle, she began to be abused sexually, not by Josue Fraga, but by her 13-year-old cousin, Josue David.”

The jury listened to three hours of closing arguments, encouraged by both sides to believe their facts, not those of the opposing side. In the end, the five women and seven men of the jury did the same as they jury in 2009, declaring Josue Fraga guilty of all charges in the death of 2-year-old Samantha.

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