CEDAR RAPIDS — A Williamsburg man accused of punching a toddler who later died testified Friday that he didn’t hurt 2-year-old Izabella “Bella” Loffer in June 2017.
Stevenson, charged with first-degree murder, is accused of punching Bella in the abdomen three times on June 30, 2017, in their Williamsburg home. The toddler died from blunt force injuries three days later.
His jury trial was moved from Iowa County to Linn County because of pretrial publicity. The defense rested Friday, and closing arguments will be Monday.
Stevenson testified Friday that when he got up June 28, 2017, he saw Loffer standing over Bella, who was on the bed, and that Loffer was hitting her daughter in the stomach.
Stevenson didn’t say anything to Loffer, but she looked at him and was angry, he said.
Stevenson said that Bella afterward looked pale and was “gasping” for breath. Later, she started throwing up. He also noticed her stomach was getting hard, but he didn’t think it was from her being punched.
On July 2, Stevenson saw Bella at the foot of the bed, not normally where she slept, and he picked her up. He said her eyes “went black,” and he told Loffer to call 911.
He said nobody tried to get medical care for the toddler before that day. He said he wasn’t the girl’s parent and wasn't comfortable taking her to the doctor.
Stevenson said he moved in with Amanda Loffer, her ex-husband, her mother and her five children in May 2017. It was the first serious relationship he’d been in, he said.
But Loffer was responsible for all decisions when it came to her children, he said.
He described his role as helping out and that he was mostly the one who took care of Bella while Loffer worked as a home health care provider and her ex-husband, Shane Howe, worked nights.
Stevenson said he mostly stayed upstairs in the master bedroom with Bella during the day because it was the only room with air conditioning.
Loffer’s mother stayed downstairs because of a disability but was always in the apartment with him and Bella, he said.
When he talked to investigators at the hospital, while Bella was having surgery, he didn’t know Bella had blunt force injuries and didn’t realize he and Amanda Loffer were suspected of injuring the child.
Rachel Antonuccio, Stevenson’s lawyer, asked why he didn’t tell police the truth.
Stevenson said he didn’t know. He was trying to protect Loffer. He loved her.
Stevenson, who started to cry, said he found out Bella died while he was in jail after he was arrested.
Antonuccio asked him to look at the jury and tell them the truth.
“I didn’t punch Bella,” Stevenson said, with no inflection in his voice, as he looked at the jury.
Assistant Iowa Attorney General Doug Hammerand, on cross-examination, played the police interview video of Stevenson demonstrating with a doll how he’d hit Bella in the stomach.
The prosecutor asked Stevenson why he didn’t tell police he was standing up when he hit Bella, since that’s what he now says he saw Loffer do, and why he demonstrated hitting Bella with his left hand when he now says Loffer used her right hand.
Stevenson responded “I don’t know” to both questions.
Hammerand asked Stevenson if he had been willing to take the blame for Loffer when he thought Bella’s injury wasn't serious, but then decided not to protect her when he learned the charge was murder.
Stevenson said, "Yes."
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