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“It’s just very bittersweet”: Defense attorney speaks about El Paso father found innocent of his daughter’s murder

EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- El Paso County Chief Public Defender Kelli Childress sits down with ABC-7 to talk about the Capital Murder trial of El Paso father Jose Varela and what comes next for the family after his acquittal.

Varela was accused of killing his daughter, 2-month-old Velma, in February of 2017.

Childress said after spending six years behind bars, Varela is glad to have this behind him and to clear his name. Still, many questions are left unanswered.

"How does he pick up? Where will he go from here? Where will his family go from here? It's devastating. He spent six and a half years in prison for something that he absolutely didn't do. There are people who are actually convicted of murder who receive a sentence less than six and a half years. And to me, it's just very bittersweet for the exoneration to come this late," she said.

On day four of the trial Varela told the court that he did not kill his baby, testifying that on the Sunday before his daughter's death, he was watching her so his wife, who was suffering from postpartum depression, could get some rest.

Varela said he had fed the baby at around 3 a.m. and changed her diaper, when he decided to set her down in her chair.

He said it wasn't until early the next morning when he went to check on her that he noticed she was pale, cold to the touch, and not moving.

Court records show the baby was later determined to have died from a large fracture on her skull.

Although a verdict has been reached in the case, ABC-7 asked if investigations will continue into the death of baby Velma.

"It is pretty clear that her injury was accidental. Would we ever be able to find out who fell with the baby or who might have seen something? At this point, it's unlikely. And I think it's time that we let the family heal," said Childress.

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Brianna Perez


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