No arrests in child’s death investigation

BY JENNIFER MADISON DAVIS
JOURNAL MANAGING EDITOR

The body of Sirita Sotelo, age 4, was laid to rest last week as detectives continue to investigate her death as a homicide.

“We’re at the point where it’s going to be methodical, hard work,” said Deputy Rich Niebusch with the Snohomish County Sheriff’s Office. “We are trying to identify who did this to (Sirita) but are getting varying degrees of cooperation.”

No arrests had been made as of Monday’s deadline.
The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s office determined that Sirita was beaten to death, and ruled that she died about 12 hours before paramedics were called to her Lake Stevens home on Jan. 21, court papers said.

That finding conflicts with statements from Sirita’s stepmother and aunt, who told detectives the girl was alive at about 8:30 p.m. that evening, and had merely bumped her head.

“The medical examiner’s finding certainly calls their statements into question,” said Niebusch. “Their timeline does not agree with what the medical examiner is telling us.”

The medical examiner said Sirita died from blows to her head and torso and estimated that she died between 11 a.m. and noon that day. Her death was ruled a homicide.

According to court papers, Sirita’s stepmother Heather Ewell and aunt Holly Bogart told detectives that Sirita drank glue-gun cleaner and went to bed with a stomach ache after they called the poison control hotline at about 8:25 p.m.

“We are looking into the poison control call but we’ve got to balance that against the medical examiner’s finding,” said Niebush.
Paramedics were called to the home at about 11:30 p.m. and found Sirita was dead. In a search warrant, deputies said there was bruising on her face and described her body as rigid and cool to the touch.

Ewell told detectives that Sirita may have bumped her head while in her room, and later said the girl fell in the shower, court papers said.

Sirita had been in the custody of her father, John Ewell, since Nov. 2003 and before that was in foster care, according to the state Department of Social and Health Services. Her mother, Patricia Sotelo, is in jail on unrelated charges and was released briefly last week to attend Sirita’s funeral.

Four of Sirita’s siblings and one cousin were removed from the home by Child Protective Services and placed into the care of relatives. Niebusch said on Friday that Sirita’s siblings had not yet been returned to their parents.

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