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Ogden 3-year-old’s death a ‘horrifying story’ of parental abuse, prosecutor says

Friday , February 09, 2018 - 7:46 PM

OGDEN — The first preliminary hearing for a couple accused of killing their 3-year-old daughter, Angelina Costello, included evidence detailing the alleged abuse and the arrest of a defendant’s mother.

Angelina’s parents, Miller Costello, 25, and Brenda Emile, 23 — who have both been charged with aggravated murder — appeared in court for a hearing to review evidence so the court can decide whether charges should be pursued. 

Law enforcement officials took the stand Friday, Feb. 9, to describe the crime scene surrounding the child’s death.

RELATED: Costello, Emile could face death penalty in death of 3-year-old

Multiple pictures and videos taken from the defendants’ phones were presented to the court — showing injuries to Angelina’s face, wrists and legs. 

As prosecutors displayed the evidence, Ogden Police Detective Sitka Hrabal gave context to the court. 

Hrabal talked about a handful of videos taken by Costello that showed the family at Disneyland in 2017. In one video played to the court, Angelina was sleeping in a stroller with multiple injuries visible on her face. Hrabal said a “piece was missing” from the child’s nose. 

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Prosecutors later questioned Ogden Police Detective Richard Childress, who observed the child’s autopsy at the state Medical Examiner’s Office. Childress described her body as malnourished and detailed multiple burns, cuts and bruises found during the autopsy.

“She looked like a child from a concentration camp,” Childress said in regard to the child’s malnourishment. Hrabal described the child in a similar way, saying “she looked like a Holocaust victim.” 

Childress also said many of the injuries were covered by makeup in an attempt to conceal the wounds. An autopsy photo of the child’s face showed multiple injuries — including a cigarette burn — covered by makeup.

“These images tell a horrifying story of the child’s last months and weeks,” said Deputy Weber County Attorney Christopher Shaw at the beginning of the hearing. 

At the time of her death, Angelina weighed 13 pounds, Shaw said. “That should be the weight of a 3-month-old, not a 3-year-old,” Shaw said. 

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During Shaw’s opening statements, Emile’s mother, Buffy Emile, opened the courtroom door and said to Costello, “You killed my baby, motherf-----.”

Judge Michael DiReda immediately instructed bailiffs to arrest her for contempt of court, which they did. 

Lt. Joshua Marigoni, spokesman for the Weber County Jail, said Buffy Emile is being held in jail for at least the next three days until the preliminary hearings are done. Marigoni said that Emile has been uncooperative in jail, and said deputies have been unable to take her mugshot as of Friday evening. 

After Shaw’s opening statement, Ogden Police Officer Chris Bishop was the first witness to testify. Bishop was one of the first officers at the scene after the child was found dead, and he described to the court what he observed. 

Bishop said he very quickly knew the child was dead, and added that he canceled a response from paramedics in the effort to “preserve the crime scene.” 

“She was beyond any life-saving measures,” Bishop said. 

Ogden Police Detective Travis Kearl — the primary case agent who processed the crime scene — described the couple’s home to the court. 

Kearl said when he entered the house, he saw the child lying on the floor, and said she was “obviously deceased.” 

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Kearl also interviewed Costello following the discovery of the child’s body. The court played body camera footage of Kearl and Costello talking outside of the police department after Costello requested to smoke a cigarette during the interview. 

In the video, Kearl asked Costello why he didn’t feed the child. Costello responded, “Because every time I feed her, my wife gets mad at me.” 

In her interview with police following Angelina’s death, Brenda Emile said her children were healthy, aside from a recent stomach bug. 

Emile said a large burn on the child’s chest was caused by a sparkler around July 4, and she denied ever abusing her children. 

RELATED: Ogden couple accused of killing 3-year-old may ask for leave to attend funeral

While on the stand, Ogden Police Detective Larry Lewis said that Emile told him during an interview she put makeup on Angelina so her injuries wouldn’t scare the other two children in the house. 

The preliminary hearing will continue Monday in Ogden’s 2nd District Court with more testimony. The issue of bail will also be discussed, according to Shaw. 

Both Brenda Emile and Miller Costello are being held without bail at Weber County Jail. 

Contact reporter Jacob Scholl at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Jacob_Scholl.

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