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Tuesday, February 1, 2005 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Examiner, relatives differ in girl's death

Times Snohomish County Bureau

Snohomish County sheriff's investigators say statements offered by the stepmother and aunt of a 4-year-old girl who was beaten to death contradict a medical ruling that the child died nearly 12 hours before paramedics were summoned.

Heather Ewell, the girl's stepmother, and Holly Bogart, the girl's stepaunt, told investigators that on the night of Jan. 21, Sirita Sotelo drank glue-gun cleaner and complained of a tummy ache, prompting them to call the state Poison Control Hotline. Sirita went to bed, and the women said the last time they saw her alive was at about 8:25 p.m., according to a search warrant filed yesterday in Everett District Court.

But Medical Examiner Norman Thiersch estimates the child died between 11 a.m. and noon that day. He also ruled that Sirita died from brutal blows to her head and body. The women told investigators the child only bumped her head on the night of her death, according to the warrant.

Thiersch ruled the death a homicide. No arrests have been made.

Everett attorney Mark Mestel, who is representing Heather Ewell, 25, said Ewell is "not a wanted person ... there's no charges that have been filed."

Authorities were summoned to the Lake Stevens home, on the 2500 block of 101st Avenue Northeast, at 11:23 p.m. on Jan. 21 for a report of an unconscious child. Medics arrived first and found the child dead. Deputies said Sirita had a bruise around her right eye, according to the warrant.

Along with Heather Ewell and Bogart, deputies talked with the child's father, John Ewell.

Heather Ewell said Sirita wet and defecated in her pants that night, so she gave the child a shower and told her to go to her room and get dressed. She first told investigators the child hit her head while in her room; she later said the child fell in the shower, the warrant said.

Bogart said that when her sister told her that Sirita drank glue-gun cleaner, Bogart called poison-control officials. She followed advice and gave the child milk, according to the warrant.

Dr. Bill Robertson, medical director of the Poison Control Hotline, said it didn't sound as if Sirita ingested a toxic amount. Poison-control officials made a checkup call to the home around 10:30 p.m., but no one answered.

Before moving in with her father, his wife and their children in November 2003, Sirita was living in foster care. Child-welfare officials hadn't had any contact with her since then, according to the state Department of Social and Health Services.

Since November, Sirita's mother, Patricia Sotelo, has been in jail on unrelated drug charges.

Harvey Chamberlin, who is representing John Ewell, 30, said his client "is in mourning. He's very upset about this."

"The father is not responsible for his daughter's death," Chamberlin said yesterday.

A memorial service will be held for Sirita at 1 p.m. today at Solie Funeral Home, 3301 Colby Ave. A graveside service will follow at Holyrood Catholic Cemetery, 205 N.E. 205th St., Shoreline.

Jennifer Sullivan: 425-783-0604 or jensullivan@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2005 The Seattle Times Company

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