GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Cedar Springs-area woman charged with murder in the 2018 death of her baby daughter took the stand at trial, telling the jury she was abused by her husband for years.
Tatiana Fusari, 30, is accused of murder and child abuse in the Aug. 2, 2018, death of 10-month-old Mary Welch.
An autopsy found Mary died of malnutrition and dehydration. Authorities say her parents had not been feeding her and that she was left alone for about 17 hours before her body was discovered by her mother. When she died, she weighed only about a pound more than she had had birth.
FUSARI: ABUSE INCLUDED RAPE, EXORCISM
In court Tuesday, Fusari’s attorney used questioning to portray her as a woman long abused by her husband, Seth Welch. They worked to show the jury that Fusari was hardworking and happy before she met Welch, but that he took advantage of her because she was vulnerable and didn’t have anyone close.
Fusari, a native of New York, said she moved to Grand Rapids when she was 20 to reconnect with her mother but that her mother soon kicked her out. She was studying early childhood education and development at Grand Rapids Community College and said she dreamed of starting a day care when she met Welch.
“He was charming, engaging, flirtatious. I was new, I didn’t know anybody, so it was nice to have somebody engage me,” Fusari said.
She said they went on only one date before they moved in together. After that, she said, he quickly became demanding and controlling. He would often berate her, she said.
She said they bought a farm near Cedar Springs after she became pregnant with her eldest daughter.
Welch then started cheating on her, she said. When she walked in on him during an inappropriate video call with the other woman, she said, he shoved her.
“He told me to mind my (expletive) business. He told me it was his place, his rules, he can do whatever the (expletive) he wants,” she said.
Then, she said, he raped her.
“I was struggling because this was the first time he showed any type of real aggression toward me. So I was trying to get him off and he kept smacking me repeatedly across the face,” she said.
She said she didn’t have anywhere to go because she had been isolated from her friends.
“He’d tell me I was his and I belonged to him and if I ever cheated on him that he’d kill me,” she said.
The abuse only got worse, she said. She said he pointed a gun at her head.
“He takes the AK out of the closet and he tells me to get on my knees and he puts the gun to my head,” she recounted. “And at this point I don’t know why he’s angry. I don’t know what I could’ve done this time for him to be so upset with me to put a gun to my head.”
She said she flinched and he pulled the trigger. She wasn’t hit, but the gunfire went through the wall of their eldest daughter’s room.
The disturbing stories continued during the second half of the day as Fusari told the jury about the time her husband performed an “exorcism” on her while pregnant with their youngest child.
“He was reading verses from the Bible as he was taking his open palm and smacking me in between my shoulder blades over and over… and he was just saying things like, ‘Demon, be gone!'” she said.
‘I DID NOT KNOW WHAT WAS WRONG WITH HER’
The defense then focused the questioning on Mary’s health and feeding habits leading up to her death. Fusari said she didn’t notice anything wrong with the baby, saying she thought Mary was just growing slower than her other kids.
She described the day she found Mary dead in her crib, saying she performed CPR and did all she could to revive her daughter.
Fusari said at first, she didn’t know what caused her daughter’s death.
“I thought maybe she was ill and I didn’t know about it,” she said. “I wasn’t allowed to take her to the doctor, so if she had some sort of virus, I did not know what was wrong with her.”
During police questioning the following day, Fusari confessed to killing her daughter. Her attorney asking her to explain to the jury why she took responsibility for the crime.
“I spent the last six years being blamed for everything,” she said. “Everything is just always my fault. I tried so hard for her.”
During cross-examination, the prosecution pressed Fusari about how she could have not realized her daughter was malnourished.
“You told Officer Holly that you had given her oatmeal in the morning. Do you still say that today?” the prosecutor asked.
“Yes,” Fusari answered.
“Even though that the autopsy stated that she had not had any food for days, or solid food for days?” the prosecutor continued.
“I know that I fed her and nursed her,” Fusari responded.
The trial will resume Thursday with closing arguments. From there, it’ll be up to the jury to decide whether Fusari is guilty or not guilty.
Fusari and Welch had four children together; Mary was the third. The fourth was born while Fusari was in jail for Mary’s murder.