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Trial begins for Kent County mother accused of starving baby to death

Tatiana Fusari withdrew her 'no contest' plea last year and could now face mandatory life in prison without parole.
Credit: WZZM 13

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The trial for a Kent County woman accused of starving her baby to death began Tuesday.

Tatiana Fusari withdrew her 'no contest' plea last year and could now face mandatory life in prison without parole. 

The state claimed Fusari knowingly neglected her 10-month-old daughter, Mary Welch, causing her death. Meanwhile, her defense claimed her husband and Mary's father, Seth Welch, who has already been convicted of murdering Mary, was the one responsible.

During opening statements, Kim Richardson, Senior Prosecuting Attorney, showed the jury a picture of Mary who was skin and bones when she was found dead in her crib in August 2018. Richardson said this is what felony murder and child abuse in the first degree looks like. 

"The final person you'll hear from is the medical examiner," Richardson told the jury, "He's going to tell you that her cause of death is malnutrition with dehydration because of the neglect of her adult caregivers. Her manner of death was homicide."

Fusari's defense attorney, Damian Nunzio, claimed Seth Welch was abusing his wife, was controlling, and that he was responsible for killing Mary. 

"She [Fusari] was prevented from caring for her child the way she wanted to," Nunzio said. "He threatened to kill her and he would beat her up."

He added Fusari acted reasonably in response to domestic violence. However, he asked the jury to also consider "defense of duress," which means someone commits an offense under the threat of violence, so Fusari would be excused of liability for child abuse.

A Kent County Sheriff's deputy choked up on the witness stand talking about Mary's condition when he responded to the Welch home. 

"Her head was turned to the side. There was drool coming out of her mouth. She had a long sleeve onesie on," he explained.

The jury heard the 911 call Seth Welch made two hours after Fusari found her dead. 

"When you found her, she was already believed to be deceased, right?" The dispatcher asked and Welch responded, "Yes." 

"And that's when you consulted with a lawyer? You believed she was beyond help already?" The dispatcher asked. 

"Oh yeah, she was dead as a doornail," Welch responded.

The trial is expected to last until the end of next week and 13 On Your Side will be following this case until a verdict is reached.

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