The stepfather accused of murder and torture in the death of 7-year-old Nixzmary Brown is blaming the victim for her fatal beating.
In an interview given to reporters from three New York newspapers the day after Nixzmary's funeral, Cesar Rodriguez -- charged with second-degree murder and first-degree sexual assault -- said that his stepdaughter's behavior forced him to give her beatings.
"I ask her why she had to put me through so much trouble," Santiago said, according to the interview published in The Daily News. "And I tell her I'm sorry and that I love her."
'I Don't Want to Say She Deserved It, but …'
Rodriguez and Nixzaliz Santiago, Nixzmary's mother, are being held without bail as they face second-degree murder charges. Prosecutors say Nixzmary was beaten, starved, tied to a chair, and tortured before she died in her Brooklyn apartment on Jan. 11. Her death has renewed concerns about the Administration for Children's Services' ability to protect abused children.
Rodriguez and Santiago also face charges of manslaughter, unlawful imprisonment, and endangering the welfare of a child. If convicted, they could face 25 years to life in prison.
In their indictment, prosecutors said Rodriguez abused the girl for months as her mother did nothing. The alleged abuse culminated, prosecutors said, when Rodriguez smashed Nixzmary's head against a bathtub.
Rodriguez denied sexually abusing Nixzmary in the Daily News interview, but admitted to the fatal beating, saying, "I probably used all my force."
Nixzmary, Rodriguez said, repeatedly misbehaved. He said that he had to lock her in her room to protect himself and enable her five siblings to sleep at night.
"I don't want to say she deserved it, but … ," he said.
Grandmother Seeking Custody of Surviving Siblings
A missing cup of yogurt -- and a malfunctioning computer printer -- may have led to Nixzmary's death. Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes told reporters Tuesday that Rodriguez flew into a rage when he learned that his computer printer wasn't working. One of Nixzmary's siblings blamed her.
Sources have told ABC News affiliate WABC-TV in New York that Rodriguez had also asked his wife who was responsible for the missing yogurt and his problematic computer printer. Santiago, sources said, blamed Nixzmary.
Sources close to the prosecution have told WABC that Santiago has also made detailed confessions. However, Santiago's attorney has insisted that the allegations against her are false. Nixmary's grandmother is filing a petition to get custody of the girl's five siblings.
Reported by ABC affiliate WABC in New York.