A paramedic and an Amherst police officer testified today that Candace Croff Cartagena appeared to be faking unconsciousness when they saw her after she was found in a shed behind her East Amherst home.
The testimony came on the second day of Cartagena’s nonjury murder trial before Erie County Judge Thomas P. Franczyk.
Cartagena, 35, is accused of suffocating her 8-year-old daughter, Bianca, on Nov. 29, 2010 while Bianca, who was then living with Cartagena’s parents in North Tonawanda because she could not take care of her, was visiting Cartagena at her home on Greengage Circle.
The girl’s body was found in Cartagena’s bed the evening of Nov. 30, 2010, after her grandparents became alarmed because she had not returned from her visit with her mother. Her grandfather and Cartagena’s sister went to the house and found the body, then called police who later found Cartagena in the shed.
Donald Snyder, a paramedic with Twin City Ambulance, testified that when he arrived at the house and was taken to the shed, he saw a police officer talking to Cartagena who was on the floor.
He said her eyes were closed, but he noticed the eyes were twitching. adding that she appeared to be forcing her eyes closed. He said he called out to her, but she did not respond.
Snyder said he took her hands and held them over her head, then let them go. He said she let them fall behind her head. He said normally they would have fallen in her face if she had been truly unconscious.
He said this test showed she had control of her arms and hands and was not unconscious.
“She was faking,” he said.
Snyder put her in the ambulance. On the way to Erie County Medical Center, he said she responded to his questions. When he asked her what had happened, he said she indicated she had taken a lot of pills the night before, including an anti-depressant and an anti-seizure medication. He said her medical condition appeared to be stable.
Snyder admitted under cross-examination that he didn’t know if she had been unconscious earlier and that she may have been regaining consciousness when he saw her.
Officer Mark Doldan testified that when he arrived, he saw Cartagena under a blanket amid some wooden pallets and bags of clothes in the shed. He said she was wearing a winter coat and mumbling.
He said he later got in the ambulance and rode with her to ECMC. He said she opened and closed her eyes during the trip.
Doldan said he asked her some questions in the ambulance, and she pretended initially she was not able to respond, although he said she did respond later. He said she listed the pills she had taken and indicated she had started taking them around 5 p.m. the day before.
The officer testified that when he asked her if she had tried to kill herself, she said yes. When he asked her why, he said she indicated she was tired of everything and that her husband wanted a divorce. She told him she started having the suicidal thoughts the week before, around Thanksgiving.
Doldan testified that when he asked her if anything had happened to her daughter, she told him that she wasn’t aware of anything, unless something happened to her after she took the pills.
He said she told him she would never hurt Bianca.
He said he did not tell her that her daughter was dead.