PITTSBURGH — A man charged in the death of his 3-year-old daughter was convicted of murder on Thursday.
Bella Seachrist’s death in 2020 rocked the tight-knit community of Oakmont.
On the last day of Jose Eduardo Salazar-Ortiz’s trial, a pediatrician testified that his 3-year-old daughter, Bella, was “tortured,” and that she “looked like a child out of a concentration camp” before she died.
In today’s non-jury trial, Judge Bruce Beemer found Salazar-Ortiz guilty of third-degree murder.
“I think legally speaking, we saved him. He could have been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole today,” Salazar-Ortiz’s defense attorney, Blaine Jones told Channel 11′s Gabriella DeLuca.
Jones wanted to avoid a first-degree murder conviction in an effort to prevent his client from spending the rest of his life in prison. Judge Beemer has yet to impose a sentence.
“This case was tremendously difficult both legally and as a human being. At the end of the day, you have a 3-year-old who died,” Jones said.
Prosecutors showed text messages where her father and her stepmother called the little girl “ugly” and an “animal,” plus admitted to beating her.
Bella slept in a cot in the hallway of the family’s Oakmont home and would be punished for having accidents. She was born as a result of an affair that Salazar-Ortiz had with another woman.
Medics eventually found Bella dead, bruised, and severely malnourished in a bathtub inside the family’s home.
“The only way you can survive in my job is to compartmentalize, and that’s what I did. I didn’t think as a father when I was in there working this case. I thought as his attorney and protecting his constitutional rights and do my best job possible,” Jones said.
There weren’t any family members in court on behalf of Bella, and it’s unclear where her biological mother is.
The two women also charged in her death have yet to stand trial.
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