LAS VEGAS — Sonia Lisset Castro said she pleaded for her life and that of her baby but the stranger attacking them with a medieval-style battle ax on a residential street only mocked her and kept hacking.
"I was saying in English, 'Please, please leave me alone!' But he wouldn't listen to me," Castro testified through tears and a Spanish translator Monday about the Feb. 11 attack that left her 4-month-old son, Damien, dead.
"Every time he would hit me, he would laugh out loud," she said. "I was begging him to let me go, and he was mocking me."
Castro peeled back a gauzy white scarf to show a Las Vegas judge the scars on the right side of her head where surgeons reattached her face and jaw. She said her right eye was irreparably damaged.
"My face and my head. Those are the parts of my body where he was striking me," Castro said in a hushed courtroom where Harold E. Montague sat shackled and motionless, staring at the defense table during his evidentiary hearing.
The judge and defense lawyers agreed to let Castro's husband, Carlos, hold his wife's left hand on the witness stand. She thumbed a Catholic Rosary with her right hand as she testified.
Las Vegas Justice of the Peace Melanie Andress-Tobiasson reached from the bench to help Castro to her feet when prosecutor Robert Daskas asked Castro to stand and identify the person responsible for the Feb. 11 attack.
With a trembling finger, Castro pointed at Montague.
Others who took the stand Monday included the neighbor who called 911, who said the incident caused her to have an emotional breakdown; and Montague's wife, who testified that she didn't feel Montague was a threat to her family and that he sometimes smoked marijuana but never took other drugs or drank alcohol.
With testimony yet to come from the medical examiner who examined the child, Andress-Tobiasson scheduled the hearing to continue Thursday. Afterward, the judge will be expected to decide whether to order Montague to stand trial in state court.
Montague is facing one charge of murder with a deadly weapon and three charges of attempted murder with a deadly weapon.
He is accused of stabbing his profoundly disabled sister-in-law at least 20 times in their home, then bursting outside and randomly attacking Castro as she walked past on the street with her son in a stroller. His sister-in-law, 36-year-old Monica O'Dazier, was treated at a hospital and released.
Montague told police he had no memory of the attacks, and defense lawyer Norm Reed has characterized his client as delusional and paranoid. But neither Reed nor defense lawyer Andrea Luem has sought to have Montague declared mentally unfit for trial.
A neighbor who dialed 911 as she witnessed the attack from her home also identified Montague as the assailant. Teresa Garner testified Monday that after Montague ran back inside his home, she went to Castro's aid near the curb and the overturned stroller.
"I saw the baby lying in the street, dead," sobbed Garner, a 52-year-old disabled former hotel worker. "I saw the mother, her face was completely gone ... bleeding profusely."
Garner said she later suffered an emotional breakdown and spent seven days in psychiatric care. She said she continues to take several prescription anti-anxiety medications daily. After appearing to fall asleep for a few moments during questioning by Luem, she said the medications make her drowsy.
On the 911 call, which was played for the judge, Garner is heard shrieking, "Oh my God! Her face is split open where he hit her with the hatchet!"
Police have said the ax had been hanging on a wall in Montague's home before he used it in the attack.
Montague's wife, Erricca Montague, testified that Harold Montague spent several sleepless nights pacing the floor, wasn't eating well, and appeared dehydrated the day of the attack.
Harold Montague had served since 2004 as the primary caregiver for O'Dazier, who Erricca Montague said has cerebral palsy and mental retardation, suffers seizures and can walk only a few steps with assistance.
Under questioning by Luem, Erricca Montague said her husband has smoked pot but never took other drugs or drank alcohol. She testified she didn't feel her husband was a danger to her, their three children or her disabled sister.