Cassandra Shepard told police she had moved from South Dakota to get Nina away from a life of abuse.
Prosecutors say it followed the woman here.
As paramedics worked to save Christina “Nina” Harms’ life on the afternoon of March 25, Shepard told police that Harms had been acting out again, that in a tantrum she had held her breath until she passed out.
But as investigators looked at the scene — the bandages on Harms’ hands and arms, the ligature marks on her legs — they began to look at Shepard as a suspect.
“We came to the conclusion that things just weren’t adding up,” Paul Nielsen, a former Unified Police detective, said Friday during a preliminary hearing in 3rd District Court.
After hearing from police and medical experts, Judge Randall Skanchy took the case under advisement. He will rule at a later date whether Shepard, 20,should stand trial for the murder of the woman for whom she had promised to care.
Deputy Chief Medical Examiner Edward Leis, who performed the autopsy on the 22-year-old Harms, testified the woman was severely dehydrated and had toxic levels of a sedative, possibly Benadryl, in her system when she died.
Harms had a series of bruises on her body. Her hands were wrapped tightly in bandages to cover a series of wounds. And she had a pepper seed in her right, lower eyelid, Nielsen said.
“I didn’t do those,” an emotional Shepard told her attorneys after prosecutors showed a picture of the wounds on Harms’ arms. “I didn’t do those.”
Shepard was awarded legal guardianship of Harms after Harms’ mother, a relative of Shepard’s, died in 2008.
Police say Shepard and two other adults in the home locked Harms in a closet, at times binding her crucifixion-style to a pole there. Investigators have said that closet had an alarm system and a knife stuck in the door to prevent Harms from getting out. Inside the closet was a piece of cardboard with remnants of feces and urine and some air fresheners.
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