Son of Sarasota stepmom on trial for murder testifies against her
Jurors heard compelling testimony during the Misty Stoddard murder trial when her own son was called to the stand.
Stoddard is accused of killing her 11-year-old stepdaughter Melissa in December 2012 after strapping her to a board and gagging her with duct tape.
One could only imagine what Jarrett Eastman must have felt today. The state called him up to testify against his mother, Misty Stoddard.
Melissa had autism, and Eastman recalled how frustrated Misty felt about caring for her.
Prosecutor Karen Fraivillig asked him, “Did your mom want Melissa out of the house?”
Eastman replied, “Sometimes, she did yes.”
Fraivillig inquired, “What did she say about having Melissa out of the house?”
“She said it would be better for the kids and her if she had someplace else to stay,” Eastman replied.
Eastman says Misty frequently strapped Melissa to a wooden board with a helmet on her head. He said Misty would also gag her step-daughter with duct tape.
"It would go around like this,” he said, as he demonstrated to the jurors having duct tape on his mouth.
Fraivillig asked Eastman: "Did she ever resent the extra demands that she made on the family?"
"Yes,” he replied.
Eastman said she was tied to the board after she was caught hiding knives underneath her bed. He also helped her hide the evidence when paramedics took Melissa away.
Fraivillig asked, "What did Misty Stoddard do with the board?"
"We hid it in the closet,” Eastman stated.
“Did your mother tell you why she was hiding it in the closet?” Fraivillig inquired.
Eastman responded: “No.”
Jurors also heard from a Kevin Dermody, a neighbor who frequently heard screaming from the Stoddard home and said, "It was pretty regularly that you would hear the child get abused."
In court Tuesday morning, the state called Dr. Sally Smith, the medical director of the Child protection Team in Pinellas County who examined Melissa Stoddard while she was being treated at All Children’s Hospital.
Smith recalls finding adhesive residue on Melissa’s body and injuries that would’ve been caused by being tied up by wires or cords. Her findings were consistent with chronic abuse.