Friday, June 3, 2005 | 10:53 a.m.
A picture might be worth a thousand words for some, but for Beau Maestas, it might be worth a death sentence.
The autopsy photos of the 3-year-old girl he stabbed to death and those detailing the wounds to her 10-year-old half-sister were shown Thursday to the jury that will determine Maestas' sentence for the January 2003 attack in Mesquite.
Last Friday Maestas pleaded guilty to one count each of murder, attempted murder and burglary, all with use of a deadly weapon, in the killing of 3-year-old Kristyanna Cowan and the stabbing of her half-sister, Brittney Bergeron, in a trailer in the CasaBlanca hotel RV park.
Many of the 12 jurors Thursday winced as they saw pictures of 39-inch-tall, 32-pound Kristyanna's bloodied body lying on the autopsy table and listened as Dr. Gary Telgenhoff, medical examiner for the coroner's office, used a pointer to identify the stab wounds.
The wounds included one that punctured the girl's head, broke through the skull and penetrated her brain.
As the jurors made it through the difficult viewing, Maestas hunched over in his chair at the defense table and stared at his shoes.
After Telgenhoff said the cause of death was multiple stab wounds, in particular to the head and neck of Kristyanna and the manner of death was a homicide, the surgeon who performed emergency procedures on Brittney discussed and showed the jurors the pictures of her injuries.
Dr. Jay Coates pointed out most of the roughly 20 stab wounds Brittney suffered at the hands of Maestas. His sister, Monique is also accused of participating in the attack and will stand trial seperately.
Coates said Brittney's stomach and liver had been punctured and stab wounds that severed her spinal cord have left Brittney a paraplegic for the rest of her life.
Mesquite police officer Brad Swanson paused often and fought back tears as he recalled what he witnessed as the first officer on the scene, encountering a chilling scene with the two girls severely injured.
As he and Brittney's mother applied pressure to her wounds, he asked Brittney questions to keep her awake. He said Brittney told him a white, younger male and female who she didn't know were the attackers.
"(Brittney said) the male held his hands over both of their mouths and they tried to fight him off by kicking, biting and punching, but she said he was too strong," Swanson said.
"She (Brittney) didn't want to die, and I told her she wasn't going to die and I was here to help her."
Swanson then walked the jury through the pictures of the scene.
Although the gruesome pictures showed clearly the wounds inflicted on the two girls, Thursday's testimony from Beau Maestas' ex-girlfriend, who was with Maestas and his sister, Monique, the night of the killing and as they fled to Utah, provided the narrative.
Twenty-year-old Sabrina Bantam said she had been dating Beau Maestas on and off for two years at the time of the attack. Bantam, then 18, said she had made plans to hang out with Beau Maestas the night of the incident because he and his sister were returning to Utah the next day.
She said at around 1:30 a.m. on Jan. 22, 2003, Beau knocked on the door of her trailer at the CasaBlanca RV park and asked if "I had something sharp, scissors or a knife."
She said he "was a little anxious" and he and his sister had paid $200 for drugs but were "ripped" off by someone named "Tammy" who sold them salt instead.
Bantam said her father had studied to be a chef and she didn't think twice about asking him if she could borrow five knives for Beau Maestas to use. She said she assumed the knives were needed "for his drug use" and "absolutely not" for killing a little girl.
Bantam said she then agreed to "go on a ride" with Beau and Monique Maestas, a ride she later said she wished she had never taken.
She said they drove to the employee parking lot at the CasaBlanca and Beau Maestas left Bantam and his sister in the car saying, "He'd be right back."
He told her nothing about where he was going, Bantam said. Roughly 10 minutes later, she said, Maestas returned, saying "The little girl would not let him in the house."
Bantam said Monique Maestas "encouraged" her brother to return with her saying "the little girl would probably let her (Monique) in the house." She said the siblings walked away "huffing and puffing."
Fifteen minutes later Bantam said the brother and sister came running toward the vehicle with bloody hands. She said Beau Maestas told her "the police were coming, they were coming soon, and we needed to hurry."
Bantam said after the attack they went to the siblings's grandmother's house to clean up, and Beau Maestas called a friend near Salt Lake City and told him they had just killed some children and needed a place to go. Along the way, Beau Maestas threw the knives, bloody clothing and towels on the roof of an abandoned gas station in Fillmore, Utah.
Bantam said she really didn't understand what had happened, but slowly over the span of a few hours in bits and pieces Beau and Monique Maestas would admit to stabbing the two little girls.
Under the questioning from Beau Maestas' attorney, Pete Christiansen, however, Bantam insinuated Monique Maestas was the mastermind and driving force behind the attack.
Bantam said Monique Maestas "stabbed the little girl after she bit" Beau. Bantam said it was her understanding that Monique started the stabbing attack and classified Monique as "manipulative, vindictive and she manipulated Beau."
Bantam said Monique told her she was "trying to hit her in the major organs, I kept trying but just kept stabbing, I should have stabbed the girl's neck but I was too scared then."
Bantam said she was fearful for her life after the incident because Monique Maestas asked Beau, "What are we going to do about Sabrina?" She said she took the question as meaning Monique Maestas wanted to hurt her because she had been an eyewitness.
Bantam said although Beau didn't answer Monique, he made "efforts to protect me."
She said the biggest effort was made when Beau decided to pull over instead of trying to escape from police cars pursuing them in Utah.
District Attorney David Roger challenged the notion that Beau was trying to protect Bantam by reading a portion of a letter Beau had written Monique.
In the letter Beau Maestas asks his sister to "promise me you will punch Sabrina's (Bantam) teeth out, kick her lips out, rip her tongue out...."
Roger also rejected any claim that Monique Maestas manipulated her older brother into committing the attack, saying Beau was a "grown man" and the "fact of the matter is the 3-year-old baby is dead, the fact of the matter is the defendant stabbed the 3-year-old baby in the head."
Although Bantam provided the knives used in the deadly attack, drove to and away from the crime scene with the Maestas siblings and fled with them to Utah, she has never faced charges.
She said her reasoning for going along with the siblings as they fled Nevada for Utah came down to her feelings for Beau Maestas. "I went with them because I was scared, I was shocked and I knew they were going to get caught," Bantam said. "I went because I knew Beau was going to end up doing something stupid, and I wanted to make sure he didn't."
She later said she feared Beau might kill himself. Bantam said although she knew Beau used drugs she never witnessed him act violently. She said she still cares for Beau and continues to write and visit him at the Clark County Detention Center when she has the time.
No trial date has been set for Monique Maestas, who faces the same charges as her brother plus one count of conspiracy to commit murder.