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Erica Bell to undergo bench trial for 3-year-old girl's murder

Erica Bell is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in the death of Brook Stagles in November 2016. (Photo: John Geer)

Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - The woman charged with murder in the death of a three-year-old girl in Greece last year will have her trial verdict decided by a judge.

Erica Bell is charged with second-degree murder and first-degree manslaughter in the death of Brook Stagles in November 2016.

Stagles' father, Michael Stagles, is charged with criminally negligent homicide in the case. Bell was Stagles' girlfriend.

The two are being tried separately.

Brook died on November 14, one day after being taken to the hospital with serious injuries. Her death was ruled a homicide.

A medical examiner determined that the toddler died from abdominal blunt force trauma. Her autopsy also lists multiple lacerations and contusions from head to toe.

Prosecutor, Sara VanStrydonck said it's the defendants choice whether or not she wants to proceed with a bench trial.

"That would be a defense strategy," VanStrydonck said. "I certainly know in either case, we're ready for trial and ready to prove our case beyond a reasonable doubt next week."

The defense team declined to comment after Tuesday's court hearing, but in open court, they have discussed a position that Brook was in the care of other adults with a history of child abuse or negligence in the weeks and days leading up to her death.

VanStrydonck said their position has been the same from day one.

"Our theory has always been from the start, there are two individuals charged here and we find there are two individuals responsible for Brook Stagles' death."

Brook Stagles' mother, Ashlee Geer and her grandmother, Kelly Mollnow were both arrested in a prostitution sting off of Lyell Avenue last Thursday night.

The prosecution says this, in no way, plays a role in the criminal court case.



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