JOSHUA TREE, Calif. - Former New River Marine Joshua Kruzik, 23, faces life in prison for the murder of a 19-month-old girl. Late Monday, the Southern California prosecutor and defense attorney involved in the case spoke for the first time since Thursday's guilty verdict.
The former corporal was dishonorably discharged nearly two years ago when he was arrested for the Nov. 20, 2010 murder. Kruzik was staying with Marine friends and their child when he was on a six month training mission at the Marine base in Twentynine Palms, Calif.
Kruzik's friends left 19-month-old Audrey Allen in his care the night of Nov. 19. 2010. Prosecutors said when Audrey would not stop crying, the former Marine severely beat the child, leading to her death the following day.
"We felt like the verdict was justice for little Audrey," said Deputy District Attorney Lisa Muscari in a phone interview Monday. "She had been horribly brutalized and the defendant was held responsible."
According to the San Bernardino County Medical Examiner, the toddler died from multiple blunt-trauma injuries to her head and body. Testimony presented by the prosecution revealed the severity of the beatings.
"He hit her or shook her so hard that the back of her optic nerve was detached from her eye," Muscari said. "He denied it, denied it, denied it. He said he never saw her, then he said he fell on her, which was obviously inconsistent with the injuries."
Defense attorney David R. Cohn said Kruzik was not in control of his actions and did not act with malicious intent.
"He was very drunk at the time, and had steroids in his system," Cohn said in an interview Monday. "Other things of that nature affected his ability to know exactly what was going on when he made this cruel judgement."
Since Audrey's death, the former Marine has been grief-stricken, according to his lawyer.
"[Kruzik] lives with it every single day, of what he did to little baby Audrey," Cohn said. "He is going to continue to need counseling over that. I know some people may not feel sad for him or have sympathy for him, but... it's a fact we had numerous people come forward to say he's a peaceful and non-violent guy."
Defense witnesses testified Kruzik had no similar violent instances in his past. Kruzik was found guilty Thursday of second-degree murder and assault on a child causing death, convictions that carry respective terms of 25 years to life and 15 years to life. Audrey's mother, Melissa Marnell, was in the courtroom for the verdict.
"I didn't see tears in her eyes, but Melissa is a Marine, she composes herself well," Muscari said. "I know she was emotional. She had to wait close to two years to get justice for her daughter. And she's devastated. She was devastated by the death."
Kruzik is orinally from Lansford, P.A. He entered the Marine Corps in 2007 after graduating from Panther Valley High School. Sentencing is set for Nov. 30 in in Joshua Tree, Calif. Superior Court.