LOVINGTON, N.M. (KRQE) – Testifying in her own defense, Alexis Avila took to the witness stand Thursday in the trial tied to allegations that she tossed her newborn baby in a dumpster. Avila, now 19, is facing one count of child abuse resulting in great bodily harm, or alternatively, one count of attempted first-degree murder.
After calling 15 witnesses to the stand, prosecutors rest their case Thursday morning. The defense called just one witness, a clinical psychologist, before Avila said she would testify on her own behalf.
Avila is accused of tossing her baby boy in a dumpster behind Hobbs’ Broadmoar Shopping Center on January 7, 2022. Three people who had been digging through the dumpster found the boy in the trash and called the police. The boy survived.
Avila took the stand Thursday afternoon, first answering questions from her attorney. While she admitted to tossing her baby boy in the dumpster, Avila testified Thursday that she does not remember what happened for several hours after she gave birth.
Avila says she was alone in her family’s home bathroom when she delivered her baby. She described needing to use the bathroom, then giving birth.
“I just remember sitting there and then the baby was on the toilet or on the floor, I don’t remember,” Avila testified on direct examination, describing how the delivery happened. “I was in shock, how could this happen?”
Medical records indicate Avila learned she was pregnant the day prior to giving birth. Avila said while medical staff at a Hobbs clinic told her she was pregnant, she did not know she would give birth the next day.
Avila described “blacking out” after delivering the baby, saying the next thing she remembered was leaving the police station with her mom following an interview with a Hobbs Police detective. That interview occurred more than five hours after the baby was delivered.
Avila acknowledge that a police video shows an interview where she described delivering the baby and tossing the baby in a dumpster. However, Avila described looking at herself in the police interview video as seeing “a ghost,” with no memory of the interview.
“I don’t think that was me,” Avila said, referring to her thoughts about watching the recording of her interview with police. “Looking at that video and how I normally am, that wasn’t me, like I was looking at a ghost.”
Avila testified that she didn’t know how she was able to tell Hobbs Police the initial story about what happened to her baby boy. “I think when [the detective] was asking me the questions, he was giving me the answer,” Avila said.
“At what point did you come to the realization of what happened?” Avila’s attorney Ibukun Adepoju asked. Avila responded, “not for a while, when I was fully able to comprehend, how you and I are speaking, for a couple of months.”
A clinical psychology testified for Avila’s defense Thursday, revealing that she diagnosed Avila with bipolar one disorder roughly four months after having the baby. Dr. Susan Cave said Avila has likely had the disorder for several years, and “exhibits denial” through “dissociation,” where “a person detaches from what they’re feeling and is thinking about something else.”
“Our minds can wander, we can think about something in fantasy, you can drive down the road from here, 20 minutes, to Hobbs and your mind can be off thinking about something else and you’re not really paying attention to the road,” Dr. Cave said. “But some part of you is [paying attention to the road] because you didn’t wreck your car. That’s dissociation, we take our mind and we put it somewhere else.”
Defense attorney Raymond Conley asked if Dr. Cave believed Avila experienced dissociation after delivering the baby. She agreed.
“Yes,” Dr. Cave said. “[Avila] called it being in shock, which I think most people can understand.”
Avila remained composed through out the vast majority of her testimony. Her voice waivered when her attorney asked her to describe how her actions affected the baby.
“That hurts,” Avila said. “That’s something that he’s never going forget, that’s something that’s going to live with him for the rest of his life, as well as myself.”
Prosecution challenges Avila’s defense
Prosecutor Mark Probasco challenged much of Avila’s testimony in cross-examination. Across several minutes of questions, Probasco highlighted Avila’s lack of memory about her actions and claims that she “blacked out” after having the baby.
“You were able to get your new born baby into the dumpster weren’t you?” Probasco asked. Avila responded, “From what I’ve seen in the video, yes.”
“You were able to turn around just before your baby makes impact with the garbage in that dumpster, before getting into your vehicle, weren’t you?” ” Probasco asked. “Avila: “From what I’ve seen in the video, yes.”
Prosecutors also tried to highlight Avila’s credibility during her testimony. Throughout the trial, defense attorneys have represented that Avila learned she was pregnant on January 6, 2022, one day before she gave birth to the baby boy.
However, Avila also acknowledged Thursday that she took two pregnancy tests in August 2021, testifying that she did it for a TikTok trend. One of those tests came back negative, while a second came out positive, Avila said. She testified that she “took the negative” as a definitive answer about her status.
In cross-examination, Probasco clearly attacked Avila’s claim about blacking out details of what happened. Asking Avila about her testimony on taking pregnancy tests for a TikTok trend, Probasco asked if she had “blacked out” during her testimony.
“We just heard on re-direct a new TikTok angle, your pregnancy test in August. Do you remember providing testimony in relation to that?” Probasco asked.
“Just…?” Avila pointed, stammering before saying “Yes.” “Just now,” Probasco said as Avila stammered, “Or did you black that out?” Avila denied “blacking out” during her most recent testimony, but was unable to remember who else’s pregnancy tests came back positive other than hers.
Calling a rebuttal witness to the stand, prosecutors questioned the father of Avila’s boy, Stephen Astorga. Prosecutors asked Astorga about the blackouts that Avila claims she suffered around learning she was pregnant and delivering the baby.
“With her work and her school, were you aware of any sort of difficulties either with work or school during the time you were in a relationship?” Probasco asked Astorga. Astorga responded, “no.”
“Were you aware of any sort of blackouts or any sort of serious medical conditions like that?” Probasco asked. Astorga again replied, “no.”
Judge denies directed verdict
The state finished presenting its case around 11:30 a.m., following testimony from its final three witnesses. Two medical professionals and the police detective, Detective Daniel Perez, testified. Jurors watched the complete interview Avila gave to Perez hours after tossing the baby into the dumpster.
Following Perez’s testimony, defense attorneys asked Judge William Shoobridge for a directed verdict in the case. Avila’s defense highlighted part of their defense in the case, arguing that the facts of the case do not prove “child abuse resulting in great bodily harm.”
A defense attorney for Avila, Tashika Curlee focused on “great bodily harm” being defined by the legislature, and unproven by evidence presented in the prosecution.
“[great bodily harm is defined as] an injury to the person which creates a high probability of death or which causes serious disfigurement or which results in permanent protracted loss or impairment of the function of any member or organ of the body,” Curlee said. Highlighting testimony about the boy’s injuries, Curlee said, “We clearly do not have permanent or protracted loss, loss that would have extended over a period of time, we essentially have a child that was hospitalized for a matter of a few days.”
Prosecutors opposed the defense’s motion. Within seconds of hearing the prosecution’s rebuttal, Judge William Shoobridge sided with the prosecution, denying the defense’s motion.
“There is sufficient evidence that a jury could find beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant committed the crime of abuse of a child resulting in great bodily harm,” Judge Shoobridge said. “There was substantial medical evidence that the child was subjected to an unjustifiable risk of serious harm that, but for medical intervention, he suffered a strong possibility of injury to his vital organs.”
Court expected to resume Friday morning around 10 a.m. Both sides are expected to give closing arguments before the case heads to the jury for deliberation.
The trial is expected to last through Friday. During Tuesday’s opening arguments, emphasized the strength of the evidence. Meanwhile, defense attorneys are expected to argue that prosecutors have mischarged the case. Wednesday’s testimony included medical and police professionals.
Fifth Judicial District Judge William Shoobridge is overseeing the case in a Lovington, New Mexico courtroom. The prosecution team includes 5th Judicial District Attorney Dianna Luce along with Alyssa Cervantes and Mark Probasco of the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office.
Avila’s defense team includes attorneys Ibukun Adepoju, Raymond Conley and Tashika Curlee.