Girl, 4, testifies at hearing about sister’s death
November 9, 2005
FALLON – The 4-year-old sister of a toddler allegedly killed by child abuse here testified Wednesday at a preliminary hearing for the man accused of murdering the child.
The young witness, who gave her name simply as “Hannah,” said she saw Jose “Joey” Valencia hit her 2-year-old sister on the hand and in the head with a clothes hanger because “she pooped in her diaper and in my bed.”
Valencia is accused of murder by means of child abuse for the alleged beating death of Nikaliah Knoch in August.
Questioning the soft-spoken youngster was difficult for defense attorney Paul G. Yohey. Hannah didn’t respond to some questions and didn’t under-stand others. She lowered her head so she could barely be seen behind the witness stand, but not before she said, “Joey killed her.”
“It’s obvious she’s having a hard time and I can’t do my job,” Yohey told Justice of the Peace Dan Ward. “It’s clear I can’t go forward at this time.”
He said he intends to call the child back to the witness stand today when he presents the defense’s side of the case.
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Nikaliah died Aug. 16 of severe brain injuries. She had been airlifted to Washoe Medical Center by Care Flight two days earlier after emergency workers in Fallon found she was not responsive in her home at 441 E. Virginia St.
Reno neurosurgeon Dr. Hilary Fleming testified that Nikaliah suffered extreme trauma that cause her brain to swell.
“The degree of brain swelling was unbelievable and the chance of us being able to control that was essentially zero,” the doctor said. “The pressure on the brain was extremely high. At that time she was probably brain dead.”
Yohey asked the doctor if it is possible one child could have caused the injury to another child.
“To get this degree of injury takes a significant amount of force, such as a high-speed motor vehicle accident. This is a high-velocity injury,” she said. “I feel comfortable that a small child could not inflict this kind of injury. This would have taken brute strength.”
Also taking the witness stand during the hearing was Julienne Camacho, Nikaliah’s mother. She and Valencia lived together at the time, along with her 23-year-old brother Henry “Allen” Camacho, her 5-year-old son, Hannah and Nikaliah.
She was working at Churchill Springs when she received a call from Valencia, saying she needed to come home because something was wrong with Nikaliah, Julienne testified.
“She’s not talking to me and the kids had her wrapped in blankets,” she said Valencia told her.
“Joey started yelling, ‘Kayla, Kayla.’ I was telling him to go – just get away,” Julienne said.
Valencia reportedly left just as an ambulance was arriving at the home.
Stephen “Charlie” Cheek testified he saw Valencia Aug. 14 at some apartments on Center Street a few minutes after he heard sirens in town.
“He was saying, ‘she’s not all right.’ He was crying and upset,” Cheek testified.
He said Valencia asked him to take Julienne’s car and park it near a church.
Valencia fled to Reno where he bought a bus ticket to Arizona, according to other witnesses.
John Pemberton said he and his girlfriend drove Valencia to the Greyhound Bus Station the day Nikaliah was hurt.
The three got a room at the Downtowner Motor Lodge across the street from the bus depot because the bus was leaving early the next morning, he said. They overslept, he testified, causing Valencia to miss his bus.
The hearing continues today in Churchill County Justice Court.