A lot more detail has come out about the death of nine-year-old Emrik Osuna, whose father and stepmother are charged in his murder in September of 2020.
First, a recap:
Emrik was pronounced dead on September 2, 2020 after being rushed to St. Luke’s Medical Center in Boise, Idaho. The nine-year-old boy, who loved Transformers, superheroes, and grilled cheese sandwiches, was allegedly subjected to torture for the final months of his life, including physical beatings, starvation, being locked in closets, and being forced to exercise excessively as punishment. According to prosecutors, Emrik was fed only rice and water in the weeks leading up to his death, and he was forced to sleep on the floor in a hall closet.
The same day, Emrik’s stepmother, 28-year-old Monique Desiree Osuna, was arrested and charged with felony murder in her stepson’s death. His father, Erik Emmanuel Osuna-Gutierrez, was also arrested; accused of knowing about, permitting, and attempting to conceal evidence of his son’s abuse, neglect, starvation, and torture; and charged with felony injury to a child, felony infliction of great bodily injury, and misdemeanor concealment of evidence. A month later, Erik was also charged with felony murder.
According to prosecutors, both of them knew Emrik was in dire need of medical assistance but waited several hours before calling 911. About four hours prior to the call, Erik reportedly texted Monique that if she didn’t want to take Emrik for treatment, he would do it, saying, “I know you’re scared. I am too.”
Emrik’s cause and manner of death have not been released. At the time of his death, he weighed 44 pounds, which is the average weight for a five to six-year-old boy. At age nine, he should have weighed around 63 pounds.
Both Erik and Monique have been held at the Ada County Jail on bonds of $2 million since their arrests. They have been ordered not to have contact with their surviving children.
In February of 2021, Erik Osuna was deemed not mentally competent to stand trial and ordered committed to a psychiatric facility. His specific mental issues or diagnoses are unknown. Under Idaho law, a defendant must have the mental capacity to understand court proceedings and to assist in his own defense.
For a more detailed account of Emrik’s story, please see my previous coverage of the case.
Now, the updates:
Erik and Monique’s preliminary hearing before Judge Daniel Steckel on March 31 stretched from 8:30 AM past 6:00 PM. Although this doesn’t appear to have been reported anywhere, Erik’s commitment was ordered terminated, and although it wasn’t explicitly stated in the court docket, based on my inexpert interpretation of Idaho code Section 18-212(4), it would appear the judge determined him to be competent, because the proceedings in his case have resumed. In fact, the judge bound over the charges against both Erik and Monique Osuna to district court, allowing the case to proceed to trial.
At the same hearing, the prosecution detailed for the court the repeated beatings and torture Emrik endured before his death on September 2, 2020, presenting evidence that included nanny-cam videos taken from the family’s video surveillance system. Several witnesses also testified at the hearing, including an Ada County paramedic, four members of the Meridian Police Department, and Hannah Berry, one of Monique’s coworkers.
Hannah testified that while discussing Emrik’s behavior with Monique, Hannah suggested the possibility that the boy suffered from Reactive Attachment Disorder, which affects neglected or abused children.
During her testimony, Hannah told the court that she was the one to suggest the couple install nanny cameras in their apartment to document Emrik’s reported behavior. She was also the one to suggest physical exercise as punishment, but she insisted she did not recommend the lengthy bouts of exercise Monique evidently forced upon Emrik.
Hannah said that on September 1, 2020 at around 5:00 PM, she received a text from Monique that said something was wrong with her stepson; when she arrived at the apartment around 8:30 PM, Hannah said, Emrik was lying on the living room floor. “He was laying down and he was covered in blankets; I mean, it looked like he was sleeping.”
Emrik’s hand was cold to the touch, she said, and at some point, she suggested Erik and Monique put Pedialyte into Emrik’s mouth with a syringe, which they did. She suggested they try to stand him up to see if that roused him; when they lifted Emrik, Hannah said, he took his “last breath… It was a deep breath, and then it was just silent.”
When Monique performed CPR on her stepson, Hannah said, a milky liquid sprayed from his nose and mouth. Finally, around 9:40 PM, Erik used Monique’s phone to dial 911, placed the call on speaker phone, and, before paramedics arrived, handed Hannah a bundle of security cameras and cords and asked her to hide them in her car.
Hannah testified that when she returned to her car hours later, she remembered the cameras and turned them over to the police. While initially talking to officers at the scene, she testified, panic led her to forget about the cameras. “I was still in shock.”
Those cameras captured multiple videos that were shown during the preliminary hearing, and if you thought this couple was evil before, just wait until you read what the videos showed.
Some of the videos documented the hours of constant physical exercises Emrik was forced to do as punishment, which included wall-sits, jumping jacks, “inch-worms,” and others. In one video, Emrik did a wall-sit as Monique loomed over him, screaming profanities and threatening him with physical violence. In another, Emrik was performing another exercise in the kitchen when his father came into frame and appeared to hit the nine-year-old in the back of the head with a belt.
Throughout the videos, Monique was seen kicking Emrik across the room, calling him “a fucking loser” and “a piece of shit,” and telling him she was going to force him to eat his own feces and drink his own urine.
One video depicted Emrik asleep in the fetal position on the living room floor without blankets or pillows; suddenly, Monique woke him by grabbing him by the hair, yanking him off the ground, and forcing him into the kitchen, demanding he perform jumping jacks, all the while slapping him violently before switching to smashing the crying, screaming boy over the head with a spoon. Some video footage depicts Monique holding Emrik by the hair and “swinging him around like a rag doll.”
How’s your blood pressure right now? Mine skyrocketed just typing those last few paragraphs.
Meridian Police Detective Matthew Ferronato testified that during the video in which she awoke him and yanked him up by the hair, Monique was furious with Emrik for drinking a glass of water supposedly belonging to someone else. The little boy asked to use the bathroom, which Monique forbade, telling him, “Next time I’ll put poison in a cup and put your name on it.”
In one twelve-minute video seen at the hearing, Emrik was once again performing an exercise in the kitchen when he paused and moved toward the garbage can, possibly hoping to look for something to eat, as he was severely malnourished in all of the video clips, his ribs protruding sharply against his skin. Monique was seen on the video entering the kitchen, kicking Emrik before hitting him multiple times in the head. In another video, Emrik was hit with a frying pan while being forced to stand on one leg with his hands above his head.
Erik’s contribution to the verbal and physical abuse of his son appeared less common than his wife’s, but Detective Ferronato said that Erik often ignored Emrik and failed to intervene when Monique beat or berated him.
Reportedly, while the videos were shown, Monique became emotional in the courtroom, and Erik hung his head. That’s almost as infuriating as the details of the videos, honestly. There’s no way they regret systematically torturing and murdering Emrik, in my opinion; they merely regret getting caught.
Meridian Police Detective Eric Stoffle also testified at the hearing, saying he interviewed Erik after Emrik was taken to the hospital on the evening of September 1. Erik admitted during the interview that in the weeks leading up to his death, his son was hit with a dog leash and a frying pan. When the interview concluded, Detective Stoffle said, he told Erik his son had died. “He said he had failed as a parent,” testified the detective.
How much exercise was Emrik forced to complete? Detective Ferronato testified, “Each day, I would say over twelve hours a day, or thereabouts. Sometimes it would go on, twenty-plus hours of constant exercise.”
The detective also testified that throughout the two weeks of footage they reviewed, not once did they witness a single member of the family show affection or any kind of positive attention to Emrik. He was not permitted to play with toys or games. While the rest of the family ate fast food in front of him, Emrik went without.
The court saw autopsy photos during the preliminary hearing, showing “extensive bruising” on Emrik’s face, head, back, and legs. Investigators testified that in separate interviews with Erik and Monique, when asked if, in their belief, Emrik was tortured, both conceded that their treatment of the little boy qualified as torture.
Prosecutor Tamara Kelly told the court, “The little boy had bruises all over his body, specifically on his buttocks, groin, legs, and torso. Some of the bruises were extremely large and essentially covered the back of his body.”
Meridian Police Officer Scott Frazier, one of the first two officers who responded to the Osuna home on the evening of September 1, testified that when he arrived, Emrik was on the carpet with his head toward the door, without a pulse and not breathing, so he and the other officer performed CPR until EMS arrived. Monique, he said, was crying and “frantic,” while Hannah Berry and Erik appeared “stoic.”
Officer Frazier testified that the boy appeared sickly, as if he had a medical condition. “He was very emaciated; he appeared ill; his eyes were sunk into his head. He was pale.” When he asked Monique for Emrik’s diagnosis, she said he had ADHD.
When EMS arrived, the officer said, they stripped off Emrik’s clothes as they treated him, and he saw that Emrik had substantial dark bruising from his buttocks to his lower back, as well as trauma to his penis, describing the injury as appearing as if someone had left a rubber band wrapped around the organ.
Ada County Paramedic Jana Reed testified that she found it unusual that nine-year-old Emrik was wearing a diaper when she arrived on the scene. “When I asked why he was in a diaper, I was told ‘he kept wetting himself, so I put a diaper on him.’”
The court also heard testimony from Detective Joseph Miller, who interviewed Monique while Detective Stoffle interviewed Erik that evening. Detective Miller said his interview with Emrik’s wicked stepmother (my words, not his) took around five hours. Initially, Monique told the detective that Emrik was injured while “playing rough” with some neighborhood boys, but she eventually admitted she had been abusing Emrik since the beginning of the year, saying the abuse escalated after the birth of her daughter four months before Emrik’s death.
During the interview, Detective Miller testified, Monique admitted delivering repeated beatings to Emrik and forcing him to exercise for hours at a time as “discipline.” The day Emrik died, however, Monique told the detective, she hit him fewer than ten times. What a benevolent soul, right? She admitted to hitting her stepson with a leash, a backscratcher, a wetted belt, a wooden spoon, and a frying pan, and she said she beat Emrik with the pan “every other day” for several months.
Detective Miller testified that Monique took responsibility for a good portion of the abuse, including the constant exercises Emrik was forced to do, although Detective Stoffle told the court that Emrik also performed exercises while Monique was out of the home and only Erik was present. “She said she thought it would teach him a lesson. She said she was harder on him. She said she lashed out at him, hitting him with a pan and making him exercise while she worked, and that he only took a break when she took a break.”
According to Detective Miller, at the end of his interview with Monique, she was arrested. He testified that he did not read Monique her Miranda rights before their interview, but she was read her rights before a second interview at the Ada County Jail, during which she told a similar story.
Prosecutor John Dinger asked, “Did he spend his last night alive in the closet?”
Detective Miller replied, “He did.”
The other three children who lived in the home, including an infant, did not appear to be abused according to police.
At the conclusion of the preliminary hearing, Judge Steckel ruled there was enough evidence for the charges against Erik and Monique Osuna to proceed to trial.
On Monday, May 17, 2021, both Erik and Monique appeared in court again to enter pleas of not guilty to the charges against them. Their trial is scheduled to begin at 9:30 AM on September 21, with a pretrial conference scheduled for August 30.
It doesn’t matter how many of these stories I cover (which, by the way, is over 100 at this point between the blog and the podcast); I will never understand how any human being is capable of such cruelty, let alone toward a child.
Click here for my ongoing coverage of Emrik’s story.
Sources: Idaho iCourt Portal, The Idaho Statesman, Mitù, KTVB7, Cafe Mom, Law & Crime, East Idaho News