A mother charged with attempting to murder her 8-year-old daughter by beating and starving her testified Thursday that she was nearly blind when she was arrested and did not know that the child was severely injured and emaciated.
Teresa Valencia, on trial in Van Nuys Superior Court on attempted murder and child-endangerment charges, testified in Spanish that she regularly fed her daughter, Cynthia, now 10. She also said she spanked her only once as punishment when the girl confessed to stealing money that the family had been saving to move into a house.
The family had been living in a camper next to a vacant Canoga Park garage. Prosecutors and Cynthia said the girl had been forced to sleep in the garage while her sister and parents slept in the camper.
During questioning by defense attorney Walter Krauss, Valencia denied ever making the girl sleep in the garage.
Surgery to Correct Vision
Valencia, occasionally breaking into tears, said she had not known the extent of Cynthia's injuries until after she had eye surgery to correct her vision and was shown photographs of the girl.
Cynthia's father, Jose Pulido Montano, 37, and Valencia were arrested on Sept. 7, 1983, when a Canoga Park liquor store owner called police to report that a thin, badly bruised little girl had wandered into his store asking for food.
Montano was convicted last year of attempted voluntary manslaughter and child endangering and was sentenced to 17 years in state prison for abusing Cynthia between May 1 and Sept. 7, 1983.
Valencia gave birth to her third child, a boy, several days after she was arrested. The children are now in foster care, Deputy Dist. Atty. Robert P. Imerman said.
During her testimony, Valencia said Cynthia was very thin when she came to live with her parents in the United States after spending the first seven years of her life with relatives in Mexico.
'Did Not Know How to Eat'
"She did not know how to eat," Valencia said. "She did not know how to swallow food. She would spit it out and she would only chew with the front teeth."
Valencia also said Cynthia frequently misbehaved and rarely called her mother.
In response to earlier testimony by a Spanish interpreter at a Canoga Park medical clinic that Valencia called her daughter "bad, evil and dirty," Valencia said she called the child maldosa , a Spanish word that she said meant "somebody who tries to do bad things to another."
Valencia's trial is expected to conclude next week.