No bail for Utah couple accused of starving, beating toddler to death

Utah

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OGDEN, Utah (KSL) — An Ogden couple accused of starving and beating their 3-year-old child to death will remain in jail without bail while a judge awaits written briefs on whether the case should proceed to trial.

At the conclusion of a two-day preliminary hearing Monday, KSL.com reports prosecutors argued against bail in the shocking child abuse case, pointing to records searches for Miller Eric Costello, 25, and Brenda Emile, 23, that revealed more than a dozen alternative names and addresses in multiple states for each of them.

Additionally, prosecutors noted, the couple had more than $45,000 in cash when arrested, including an $8,000 cashier’s check, and a warrant is pending for Costello in Montana stemming from allegations of fraud and witness tampering filed in October 2016. They also presented evidence the couple had lied about their identities when they rented their Ogden home, claiming Emile was a single mother of two children and Costello was just visiting, according to prosecutors.

Costello and Emile are both charged with aggravated murder, a first-degree felony and a potential capital offense, in the death of their 3-year-old daughter, Angelina Costello, who was found dead of starvation, blunt force trauma, burns and other injuries on July 6.

The couple has “self-proclaimed ties to a transient Romanian gypsy community” and had lived in the Ogden home less than a week when Angelina died, according to charging documents.

Second District Judge Michael DiReda did not issue a decision on whether there is sufficient evidence to bind the case over for trial, but will wait instead for both sides to file additional written briefings and argue them in a hearing on May 14. The couple will remain in custody with no bail until then.

Under advice from their attorneys, Emile and Costello did not speak during the hearing, though Costello appeared visibly stunned when prosecutor Nicholas Caine said an officer involved in the arrest had reported Costello offered to “make it worth his while” if he released him. According to the officer, Costello reported his family had “a lot of money” from a scrapping business.

During the preliminary hearing Monday, Assistant Medical Examiner Michael Belenky gave a detailed report of the extensive injuries covering Angelina’s emaciated body. There was hemorrhaging in the skull and neck, suggesting a hard blow to the head. Marks from new and old burns, apparently made by cigarettes, caked over with makeup on the girl’s face. Bruising covered more than half of the girl’s back, surrounding long, thin marks that appeared to be caused by whipping, and there was more bruising and scarring along the arms, legs and feet.

Internally, damage to the girl’s pancreas suggested a hard blow to the small child’s torso. In all, Belenky said the four-hour autopsy revealed “trauma upon trauma, nonaccidental, consistent with child abuse.”

However, Belenky couldn’t point to just one injury or another as the cause of Angelina’s death. Because on top of all of that trauma, the girl appeared to be severely starved, which would have weakened her ability to survive her injuries.

“If you starve someone or beat someone repeatedly over a period of time, they won’t have the same survival rates to any other trauma they experience later,” Belenky said.

Belenky ruled the girl’s death to be a homicide.

During the first day of the hearing, two Ogden police officers who investigated Angelina’s death compared the girl to a Holocaust victim, a 13-pound skeletal figure with sunken eyes, thinning hair and little to no muscle on her frame.

Prosecutors on Friday presented photos and videos from the couple’s phones that showed Angelina appearing increasingly bruised and injured as she seemed to waste away physically, even as her two siblings remained healthy. In some of the images, Emile seems to taunt Angelina with food. In others, Costello quizzes the toddler about whether she hates him and asks if she is “evil.”

In taped police interviews, Emile insisted that up until a few days before she died, Angelina had been as healthy as her siblings with the exception of a bout of Clostridium difficile — a bacterial infection that causes diarrhea — in 2015. In the last days of her life, Emile said Angelina had been extremely tired, had diarrhea and wouldn’t eat.

Costello told police in his interview that Emile would become angry if he tried to feed Angelina. He also said he had been “praying” someone would realize something was wrong and help his daughter.

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