- Christopher Cheary murdered Sophia Acosta in May 2011 after raping her
- He was looking after three-year-old while her mother bought him drugs
- Ambulance crews found Sophia soaking wet and unconscious at the home
- Cheary and the mother said she fainted and they tried to revive her in bath
- She died in hospital days afterwards after being declared brain dead
- Friends said Cheary, 26, lashed out when Sophia did not call him ‘daddy’
- A jury in Tulare County, California, recommended he get the death penalty
Jennifer Smith For Dailymail.com
01:03 EST, 1 December 2016
01:50 EST, 1 December 2016
A heroin addict who brutally raped, tortured and murdered his girlfriend’s three-year-old daughter is facing the death penalty.
Christopher Cheary killed three-year-old Sophia Acosta on May 7, 2011, at the apartment where they lived with her mother and younger sister.
The abhorrent abuse took place while Sophia’s mother Erika Smith was out buying drugs for the 26-year-old in Visalia, California.
Cheary beat the child before sexually assaulting her with an object and raping her. Emergency services found her lying naked and soaking wet in the middle of the living room floor.
Her mother’s boyfriend was convicted of first degree murder, rape and torture earlier this month after a two-month trial. On Wednesday, jurors recommended he be sentenced to death.
Christopher Cheary (left) raped, tortured and killed three-year-old Sophia Acosta (right) while her mother was out buying him drugs in Visalia, California, in May 2011
He will be sentenced by a judge on January 30.
Sophia’s mother was never charged. During the trial, she told Tulare County Court that she allowed Cheary to live with her and her daughters to try to wean him off heroin.
The pair soon began dating but he was abusive to her, she said. On the morning Sophia was taken to hospital, she said the pair had an argument which she thought she could resolve by buying him heroin.
She returned and the pair smoked drugs before, they said, hearing a thump upstairs from the children’s bedroom. They say they found Sophia unconscious and with vomit around her mouth and put her in the bath.
When they couldn’t revive her, the pair called emergency services who arrived to find her soaking wet and placed in the middle of the living room.
Sophia was taken to Kaweah Delta Hospital here in Visalia and then transferred to Valley Children’s Hospital where she was pronounced brain dead and taken off life support days later.
Dr. Kathleen Murphy, one of tho doctors who treated her, said it was clear she had been ‘tortured’.
Cheary began living with Sophia, her mother Erika Smith and her younger sister Alexa in 2010. They are pictured above together the day before Sophia was taken to hospital
Smith (left testifying at his trial) left her daughters in his care while she went out to buy him heroin which she said she hoped would improve his mood. She told jurors she found Sophia unconscious unconscious in her bedroom and with vomit on her mouth but did not see Cheary hit her. She has never faced charges
Cheary tried to place the three-year-old in the bath to revive her before calling emergency services
One of the emergency responders told prosecutors he noticed a puddle of blood around her backside while they were transporting her to hospital, The Visalia Times Delta reported.
She died of brain injuries after sustaining numerous blows to the head, an autopsy revealed. She also suffered bruising and bleeding to her genitalia.
The toddler also had traces of marijuana in her system.
Cheary (Above in court) will be sentenced in January. Jurors recommended he be put to death
Her babysitters have since described how the child used to complain of a sore backside and was constantly in fear of Cheary. One woman said she observed bleeding from her bottom while changing her diaper.
Cheary was neither Sophia nor her sister Alexa’s father but insisted on having them call him ‘daddy’, the same babysitter told Fox News.
He denied ever raping or torturing Sophia and claimed her death was a medical mystery.
During the trial, it emerged he had changed his story years earlier when questioned by the girls’ mother when Alexa, the younger sister, broke her leg.
Cheary had claimed she suffered the injury on a playground slide but later, after Smith spoke with doctors, said she had been dropped at a party.
Alexa was taken in to the care of authorities on May 7 when an ambulance was called for her older sister.
Sophia’s father, Obediah Acosta, did not have custody of his daughter when she died.
His family attended Cheary’s trial throughout.