Misty Stoddard took the stand late Thursday afternoon in Sarasota, and a packed courtroom listened as her defense team questioned her.
"Did you care about her?" asked one of her lawyer.
"Yes I loved her," she responded.
Stoddard faces a first-degree murder charge along with aggravated child abuse. She is accused of binding up her 11-year-old, autistic step-daughter Melissa Stoddard, to a wooden board and duct taping her mouth so her screams could not be heard.
"She would usually get agitated out of the blue and get really upset, and when we tried to intervene and calm her down and was within range of her she would lash out," said Misty.
She was pregnant when Melissa moved in.
She testified the 11-year-old girl was so violent, she was afraid for her other children and herself. She said her husband and Melissa's father, Kenneth Stoddard, came up with the idea of tying the girl to the board.
A few days later in December of 2012 paramedics would find her unconscious.
"I grabbed a pair of scissors and I told him that if he didn't want to take her off of that I would, and I was going to take her off the board, and he told me to stay out of it," she said.
“Was he angry toward you?" the defense team asked.
"I believe so," Misty responded.
"Was he threatening to you?" the defense asked.
"Yes," she said.
Melissa's biological mother, Lisha Stoddard also took the stand.
She recalled a different, happier girl.
"She would run around the house singing songs," she said as tears came to her eyes.
Lisha testified her daughter would only act out because she needed guidance.
"She would have a temper tantrum because she really couldn't say what she needed, or she couldn't really express it, so it would come out in a form of a tantrum," she said.
Lisha said she and Misty had little if any contact after Melissa moved to Sarasota.
"Did you ever give Misty Stoddard permission to tie you're daughter to a board?" asked prosecutor Karen Fraivillig.
"No," said Lisha.
The pain even almost two years after Melissa's death is still visible.
"She would give lots of hugs and lots of kisses," said Lisha as she started to cry.
The defense rested its case late Thursday afternoon. Closing instructions wrapped up Friday and jurors are now deliberating.
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FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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