A toddler found dead in Maplewood last year suffered dozens of bruises across her body, a broken rib and extensive damage to her internal organs.
Prosecutors allege that the girl's mother, Lia Pearson, knew that her boyfriend was abusing the toddler but left her in his care anyway. When police were called to the man's home on Feb. 12, 2015, they found 17-month-old Genesis Xiong dead from multiple blunt-force injuries.
Pearson, 38, is charged in Ramsey County District Court with one count each of child endangerment and second-degree manslaughter. Her trial began Monday and included graphic photos and testimony from Dr. Victor Froloff, assistant Ramsey County medical examiner.
"This case is unusual," said Froloff, who performed the autopsy on Genesis. "It's a lot of injury for a child."
Pearson's boyfriend, Leb Meak, pleaded guilty to killing to Genesis and was sentenced earlier this year to 25 years in prison. He testified at his plea hearing that he punched, squeezed and threw the girl after she made a mess at the Maplewood home he shared with his parents.
But Froloff testified that Genesis had both old and new injuries that contributed to her death, including bruising to her diaphragm and a healing rib that had been freshly broken a second time.
"I think every breath was painful," he said of the toddler.
Genesis suffered bruises across her face, head and the front of her body, and "so many" more on her arms and legs that Froloff said he couldn't tally them. Her injuries also included extensive internal damage.
There was no evidence that the girl had been strangled, Froloff testified, but cuts to the inside of her lips were consistent with someone pressing a hand over her mouth.
Pearson, who lived in Farmington, started occasionally leaving Genesis with Meak in January 2015, an arrangement that became more consistent later that month.
Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Justin Richardson said in his opening statement that Pearson ignored warnings from several people, including Meak's two sons, that Meak was abusing Genesis.
"Lia Pearson allowed her daughter to die," Richardson said.
Pearson's attorney, Patricia Hughes, said in her opening statement that her client loved Meak and had no reason to suspect he was abusing her daughter.
Pearson, a single mother of four who worked as a waitress, trusted Meak with her daughter because he was "attentive and nurturing," Hughes said.
"She believed Mr. Meak loved Genesis like [she] was his own child," Hughes said. "She didn't know that Mr. Meak was a wolf in sheep's clothing."
Pearson saw Genesis' head injury in January and "flipped out" on Meak, who said the girl had fallen on exercise weights and hurt herself, Hughes said.
Instead of taking Genesis to the hospital, Pearson consulted the internet for advice, applied ice to the girl's head and monitored her behavior, according to reports.
Froloff's testimony, and photos of the crime scene and autopsy, overwhelmed Genesis' paternal aunt, Mala Vue, who wiped away tears in court and was at a loss for words afterward.
"That was a lot of information we just learned," Vue said.
Two of Pearson's children and both of Meak's sons are expected to testify Tuesday.