Jury selection begins in death of autistic girl - FOX 13 News

Jury selection begins in death of autistic girl

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SARASOTA (FOX 13) - Jury selection begins Monday in the death of an 11-year-old Sarasota girl.

Melissa Stoddard, who was autistic, was found unconscious on December 17, 2012.

Investigators with the Sarasota Sheriff's Office said her father and stepmother, Kenneth and Misty Stoddard, admitted to using restraints to control her.  They allegedly hog-tied her arms to her legs, duct-taped her mouth, and binded her to a plywood board that she was forced to sleep on.

"That had holes drilled in it and has wooden blocks on the bottom of it," said Capt. Jeff Bell in 2012. "And that board at the time of the search warrant was found discarded across the road or in the trees."

The police report showed Kenneth Stoddard and his oldest son cut Melissa from the board before help arrived and tried to hide it.

The Stoddard's told deputies the restraints protected Melissa from herself and her siblings.

Reports from the autopsy showed Melissa died from lack of oxygen.

At the time four other children were taken into protective custody.

Kenneth and Misty Stoddard are both charged with aggravated child abuse.

Misty faces a first-degree murder charge. Kenneth is charged with aggravated manslaughter and tampering with evidence.

Jury selections begins at 9 a.m. Monday.

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