Witness: Carrigan was reluctant to call for help

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A Carson City woman testified Wednesday that she had to repeatedly ask Justin Carrigan to call 911 for his unconscious stepdaughter, eventually lying and telling him the 3-year-old girl was still breathing.

"Was there something that you told him that finally made him call 911?" asked Assistant District Attorney Gerald Gardner.

"I believe I said she was breathing a little bit, but she wasn't OK, so he needed to hurry and call an ambulance," said neighbor Serina Cottiero, whom Carrigan beckoned to his home on the morning of Sept. 27, 2010.

"Was that true?" asked Gardner.

"No," said Cottiero. "(I) lied to calm him down."

Wednesday was the second day of testimony and mostly circumstantial evidence in the felony child abuse and neglect trial of Carrigan, 28.

He stands accused of harming Rochelle Ellis, his wife's daughter from a previous relationship, and failing to immediately get help for the critically injured child.

Rochelle, now 4, is in a 24-hour care home for children in Las Vegas and is described as severely brain damaged.

Cottiero, 19, said her neighbor and friend Carrigan burst through her front door about 9 a.m. and announced he needed help. She said she followed him back to his house, a 30-second run from her own, and when she got inside she saw Rochelle unconscious on the couch.

Cottiero said she immediately went to the child as Carrigan paced and talked to himself. When Cottiero realized Rochelle wasn't breathing, she said, she tried to do CPR on the child.

"I assumed he had come to get me because he didn't have a phone ... so I told him to go back down the street and get a phone from my house and call an ambulance. But then he told me he already had a phone," said Cottiero.

Cottiero said she then told Carrigan to call for help because Rochelle wasn't breathing.

"What did he say?" asked Gardner.

"I believe he said he didn't want to call an ambulance because he'd spanked her the night before for peeing on him and she had a welt on her butt and he didn't want to get blamed," said Cottiero.

She said Carrigan then tried to roll the unconscious child over to show Cottiero, but she stopped him.

"I told him that it didn't matter, that he still needed to call because she wasn't OK," she said. "He kind of procrastinated. I believe I said it a few more times, just talking over him, just telling him to do it and not listening to what he had to say.

"I was basically talking over him in quick succession," she said of the estimated five to 10 minutes she spent trying to get him to call.

"Did you get louder the more times you told him he needed to call 911?" asked Gardner.

"Yes," she said.

Eventually, Cottiero lied about Rochelle's condition, and Carrigan finally called 911.

Wednesday's testimony also brought forth yet two more accounts of how Carrigan found the child. In the 911 call recording played for the jury Wednesday, Carrigan tells the dispatcher he woke up because he heard Rochelle crying.

"I went in (her room) and she just started moving real slow ... and then she fell off the bed. We have all hard surfaces," he said to the dispatcher.

Rochelle's mother, Leah Carrigan, and Carrigan's friend Alicia Gibbons both testified that Carrigan had told them that he heard a thump and that when he went into Rochelle's bedroom and found the girl on her knees, she looked up at him and collapsed.

Leah Carrigan said her husband told her that after finding Rochelle, he immediately administered CPR and called 911. She said she learned several days later that he'd left the house and ran to get Cottiero before calling for help.

Detective Dena Lacy said Carrigan never told anyone he'd left the house and got Cottiero. She said she learned of Cottiero's role after canvassing the neighborhood for witnesses.

A fire captain who testified Tuesday said Carrigan had told him the girl fell off something about 4 feet high.

Testimony will resume this morning. The prosecution is expected to rest its case this afternoon.


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