Three second-graders described in Van Nuys Superior Court Thursday how they took turns sampling "yucky"-tasting cocaine found in a classmate's backpack, then told friends it was good in order to trick them into trying it.
After nine students at Canoga Park Lutheran School had tasted the powdery substance--including one who said it made her tongue numb--the fun ended abruptly when a sixth-grader grabbed the cocaine and turned it in to the principal's office.
The girls told their stories on the first day of the trial of Maria Christina Torres, 39, on charges of child endangerment and possession of cocaine for sale. Police said she had hidden the drugs in her daughter's backpack.
If convicted, Torres, a Colombian citizen who lives in Topanga Canyon, could be sentenced to seven years in prison.
Eight-year-old Sara Comden, one of the three who were called to the stand to describe the June 13 episode, said she and several others who sampled the "icky" powder "spit it right out on the ground."
All three said they had no idea at the time what the substance was.
Sara also testified that shortly after the white powder was taken away, Maria Torres arrived at the school.
The 8-year-old testified that Torres was "mad, kind of" and demanded that her daughter Angelina produce the clear bag holding the powder.
She quoted Torres as saying, "Give it! Give it! Give it to me!" after failing to find the bag in the backpack.
According to testimony at Torres' preliminary hearing in August, school officials called police after the mother left the school. When police determined that the powder was cocaine, the nine children who had sampled the drug were taken to a hospital.
Although all the children were found to be unharmed, authorities said that if they had swallowed a larger amount of the cocaine, they might have died.
Torres was arrested when she came to pick up her daughter at the end of the day.
Deputy Dist. Atty. Tracy Watson told jurors that the arresting officers found three telephone pagers, additional plastic bags and about $1,000 in cash--which she said were all indications of drug dealing--on Torres when she was arrested.
Defense attorney Richard A. Walton, who chose not to make an opening statement at the start of testimony, has given no indication what the defense strategy will be.
Torres has been free on $100,000 bail.
Testimony resumes Monday in Judge Alan B. Haber's courtroom.