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Trial Begins for Winchester Mother Charged with Murder, Arson

“Despair, desperation and a disregard for others.” Those were the opening words to the jury in Commonwealth's Attorney Alexander Iden's opening statement.

WINCHESTER, Va. - The trial for Sherry Cruz, a Winchester woman charged with the death of her two-year-old son Christian, began on Monday.

Jury selection took place Monday morning. More than 60 people were interviewed in a process that took more than four hours.

Cruz’s case has received so much publicity that another 40 people were put on standby in case they couldn’t seat a fair jury with the first 60 individuals.

Before the opening arguments, the judge ruled that graphic images of Christian’s burned body, wearing nothing but a diaper, could not be shown during the guilty phase of the trial.

One of the photos was displayed as an example. The jury did not see image, but it sent gasps across the courtroom and caused Cruz to break down into tears.

The judge said he would consider allowing one photo during the sentencing process.

“Despair, desperation and a disregard for others.” Those were the opening words to the jury in Commonwealth's Attorney Alexander Iden's opening statement.

He went on to tell the jury that evidence revealed over the course of the trial will show Sherry Cruz deliberately started the fire that killed her son.

He said Cruz was living in the tiny one-bedroom apartment on Kent Street with her five children and boyfriend, and that life had become a “little hell.” Iden said Cruz even nicknamed her son Christian, “El Diablo.”

Meanwhile one of Sherry Cruz’s defense attorneys, Christopher Collins, said in his opening statement that there is “Not one piece of evidence linking [Cruz] to the fire.”

Collins said Cruz lost everything she owned in the fire, including a cell phone, dentures and her wallet. He said that investigators will confirm the house turned into an “Inferno.”

He implored the jury to put their emotions aside, and said that sentencing Cruz would not bring justice to Christian’s death.

The first witnesses also testified Monday in the case, beginning with the first people who arrived on the scene when Cruz's house caught fire.

The first witness, Annette Bell, testified that she helped rescue four of Cruz’s five children.

(Cruz is mother to five children: two sets of twins and a toddler.)

Bell, who lived two houses down from Cruz, testified that after Cruz brought her newborn baby to the porch, screamed for help, and ran back into the burning house two more times to grab and hand-off more children to Bell.

The third time she attempted to come out, she collapsed and became unconscious.

Bell testified that she helped Cruz out of the house with another bystander and when Cruz came to, she told bystanders that she only had four children.

The witness says Cruz didn't tell anyone there was a fifth child until moments later when she proceeded to count her children who had been rescued from the fire.

That's when the witness said, Cruz ran back into the burning building for her son Christian. She said she didn’t see Cruz until later, when firemen were carrying Christian out of the house.

We'll bring you details as the case unfolds this week. 

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