Amanda Ingram Burciaga
, the mother of a 2-year-old girl allegedly killed by abuse a year ago, took the stand Friday in the trial of her former boyfriend and described her increasingly troubled relationship with Russell Ros
"He told me one time he felt like a chump because I was the breadwinner," she said. Burciaga, 19, told the jury that she began working as a prostitute for an escort service to support her two young children. Ros, 24, was caring for Burciaga's daughter, Natalia Lee
, who died early March 9, 2008.
Ros allegedly kicked the toddler so hard that Natalia suffered internal bleeding and fractured bones, prosecutors said
. Investigators also found that Natalia was sexually abused
Ros is charged with murder, murder by abuse and sex abuse. He also is facing criminal-mistreatment and assault charges related to Natalia's older brother, who was 3 at the time
Marion County prosecutor Matt Kemmy read Burciaga her Miranda rights before she began her testimony, but prosecutors declined to comment on whether Burciaga is facing charges.
Burciaga since has married. Her son was adopted by another family after Oregon Department of Human Services terminated Burciaga's parental rights
, Burciaga told the court.
Kemmy asked Burciaga a series of questions that outlined her history as a parent and her relationship with Ros.
Burciaga said she was 15 when she had her son
. She became pregnant with Natalia one month after her son was born. Their father, Timothy Lee, stopped being involved with the children after Natalia was 3 months old, but Lee's father and sister were more supportive, she said.
Burciaga met Ros on her 17th birthday. At that time, Burciaga lived with her children and her mother in a cramped condominium. Ros eventually moved in with Burciaga's father in Sherwood to be closer to his job.
When she turned 18, Burciaga became a stripper, working at two clubs. Then, an acquaintance introduced her to escort services. She began flying out of state for days at a time, traveling to Alaska and Hawaii, but mostly Las Vegas.
By January 2008, Burciaga was traveling to Las Vegas nearly every weekend. She also enrolled at Chemeketa Community College and described how she would attend class Monday through Thursday, leaving Thursday nights and returning on Sundays.
Ros did not work but stayed at their apartment to watch the two children.
Burciaga said she first told Ros that she was flying out to work as a stripper, then told him that she was working as a prostitute — he, in turn, confessed that he had a gambling problem.
"He was mad at first but said if I was going to do it, might as well make all the money I could," Burciaga said.
Burciaga said she twice came back to find bruises and marks on her son; the first time, she took him to Salem Hospital in early February 2008, a month before Natalia's death. Hospital staffers did not suspect child abuse and sent Burciaga and the boy home.
Days later, when Burciaga returned from another trip, she found more bruises on her son. She took pictures of both incidents, but Ros convinced her that the boy fell while playing at McKay Park
"Did you want to believe he loved them?" Kemmy said. "Yes," Burciaga said, saying that the children called him "Daddy." Several times, Burciaga wiped tears from her eyes; first when shown a photo of Natalia around her second birthday.
"She was happy. She loved to dance," Burciaga said. "She loved flowers. She loved the color purple
Natalia also looked up to her older brother, and the two were close siblings, Burciaga said. They often would pick up the other if one of them fell and would kiss each other's "owies."
Burciaga wept as she described how she saw Natalia for the last time, when Ros drove her to Portland International Airport and they pulled up to the drop-off area for departing flights.
"I pulled my daughter out of her car seat for the last time, and I gave her a hug and a kiss," Burciaga said. "And I told her to be good, that I loved her. My son, too.
"That was the last time — the last time of her life."