The prosecutors’ theory of the case begins simply.
Ferosa Bluff told police, and maintains to this day, that she was with her children virtually the entire three weeks she stayed at the Fedorowiczes’ Utah home. Thus, no one had access to Rebecca to cause the bruises without her mother’s knowledge. They had initially tried to revive Rebecca in cold water in the bathtub—and say they first noticed the bruises when they took her clothes off to do so—but quickly switched to CPR and called 911 when Rebecca stopped breathing.
Also, forensic pathologist and Assistant State Medical Examiner Maureen Frikke (now deceased) and the other doctors testified that the colors of the bruising suggested that most of the bruises were inflicted in the 24 to 72 hours before Rebecca’s death.
So, if Ferosa Bluff were the only one with access to the children, and the doctors believed the injuries were caused intentionally, then it follows that Ferosa must have caused the injuries—or someone else who was with her. Neither she nor the Fedorowiczes have a history of violence, nor any criminal record at all, but as Deputy District Attorney Bob Stott points out, every bona fide criminal has a first criminal act.
But the prosecutors’ case had other important elements.
Whether intentional or not, Stott still engages in what the convicts consider an unfair straw-man argument. “Their defense was ‘she fell down the stairs,’ ” Stott told City Weekly, recounting why Ferosa Bluff and Andrew Fedorowicz were immediately suspected of lying. “That was their defense and all the experts say no.” Ferosa Bluff says neither she nor anyone made the claim that falling down the stairs explained all the injuries, however. “I mentioned the [stairs] because they had asked me, ‘Had she been injured?’ I stated simple facts. I never once said that was causing her bruising,” Ferosa Bluff told Board of Pardons and Parole hearing officer Angela Micklos in October 2010. “That was taken out of context.”
In addition to a figure-eight bruise on Rebecca’s arm, several other pattern bruises were said to match pieces of bondage-sex toys found in the Fedorowiczes’ home. Frikke testified abrasions, or scratches, on her back suggested a whipping from the cat-o’-nine-tails or a similar object. Nine photos of Rebecca’s corpse were presented to the jury.
One of the doctors who testified on behalf of the prosecution—the defense did not present its own medical expert—said that he would “certainly agree” that in suspected child-abuse cases testing should be done to try to rule out the possibility of a blood disorder, but also said that’s difficult to do with patients who are dead. All three doctors who testified, however, were asked about the possibility of a blood disorder explaining Rebecca’s death, and all three rejected that theory based on the appearance of the injuries. Even someone with a blood disorder needs a little bump to cause a bruise, and one doctor said Rebecca had many bruises in areas that would not normally be bumped by anything—for example, her genital area—and even someone lacking platelets needs a little bump to cause a bruise. Another pointed to various abrasions in the skin, which may suggest the bruises and scratches were caused by the same thing.
Click here to read the Re-Examination Files
authored by Todd Bluff and Suzannah Fedorowicz
Since the prosecutors’ case was largely about Rebecca’s body, so, too, is Todd and Suzannah’s re-examination, focusing on the bruises captured both in photographs and described in the autopsy report authored by Frikke.
An autopsy photo of the figure-8 bruise the medical examiner said was caused by a sex toy.
The type of mark an EKG pad would leave on the skin of a healthy person.
Their re-examination questions, for example, why Rebecca’s neck was severely bruised, as shown in photos, yet the autopsy report states there’s no evidence of an external injury there. Frikke testified she found evidence of internal injuries in Rebecca’s neck, but said it was unlikely that the first responders’ three attempts to intubate Rebecca would have caused this neck injury. So, what did? That was not determined at trial. The files suggest that if Rebecca had ITP, something as gentle as a neck collar used by first responders to prevent spinal injuries could have caused the bruising. More internal bleeding was found in Rebecca’s chest in muscles that control breathing, but that bleeding was not accompanied by any evidence of trauma to the rib bones, according to the autopsy.
The re-examination even argues that alleged pattern bruises, those that appear to have left a bruised marking on Rebecca’s skin in the shape of the object that caused them, came from medical interventions. The re-examination shows that the figure-eight bruise that Frikke testified probably came from a leather strap with two rivets is the correct dimensions and in the right spot to have been caused by the EKG lead, the part of the heart monitor that was attached to Rebecca’s upper arms. A plastic EKG lead would not cause a bruise unless, perhaps, as the re-examination argues, Rebecca lacked platelets.
There’s no doubt Rebecca’s bruises were growing and expanding, even after death. Frikke noted in her autopsy that a small band of unbruised skin on Rebecca’s back was noticeable on the first day of inspection of Rebecca’s body, “partially obliterated” by expanding bruises the second day, and “totally obliterated at the third examination.”
SEX TAPE EVIDENCE
Defense attorney Ed Brass argued during trial that, despite their claims to the contrary, prosecutors would unfairly bias the jury against the defendants by describing a sex tape found in the Fedorowiczes’ home in which bondage-sex toys like straps and whips were used in consensual play between Ferosa and the Fedorowiczes. “To say that two people who would use a whip in a consensual activity would somehow then intentionally, against a child’s will, beat that child to death—they’re distinct acts,” Brass argued to 3rd District Judge Dennis Frederick, now retired. “[But] that’s what the State is going to argue to this jury at the end is propensity: ‘If you use a whip on one occasion, you’ll use it on another occasion.’ ”
Frederick ruled against that motion, stating a description of the sex tape proved two things that are relevant to the case: 1. that the defendants used the sex toys alleged to have contributed to Rebecca’s death, and 2. that their use was intentional, not accidental. The Utah Supreme Court upheld that ruling on appeal.
A review of the trial transcript shows that prosecutors never argued explicitly that people engaged in bondage sex are more likely to harm a child, but the jury picked up on prosecutors’ suggestion. When asked if he understood the relevance of the sex tape in the case, juror No. 2, Randall Thayne said, “They were just living out fantasy ... [and] somewhere along the line they decided to include [Rebecca] in this. ... The suggestion was that the original fun was hitting her on the butt with the cat-o’-nine-tails and straps.”
But the theory that formed the basis for his vote for conviction—in which Rebecca was ritually abused in sadomasochistic fantasy in the 24 to 72 hours before her death—ironically, is not fully endorsed by either Stott or the chief investigator of the case, former Salt Lake County Sheriff Deputy Steven Jentzsch. “It wasn’t the whip that caused the death. It wasn’t the leather straps that caused the death,” Stott said. “They were used on the child, but we’re not claiming they were the cause of death. She wasn’t whipped to death.”
So, what other nonaccidental blunt-force traumas does Stott suspect led to Rebecca’s death? He doesn’t know and won’t speculate. Jentzsch said, “If you don’t want to be bothered by a child ... whether it’s sexual or not, you lash out, you beat a child, and you just kind of go from there.”
But at least for one juror, the prosecutors’ theory of the case became more believable after an end-of-trial twist, which Todd Bluff says is so baseless and offensive that he will sue anyone who repeats it in public.
“Through the trial I thought [Stott] was a little inept,” Thayne told City Weekly. “I didn’t remember specific incidents, but I remember thinking, ‘When is this guy going to kick it in gear?’ ... Toward the end of trial, [Stott] hit on that Fedorowicz was a prophet-type thing, to the point that [his friends] wore ponytails to emulate him.” Thayne admits the evidence presented was slim but says the jury got the point and believed it.
Prosecutors alleged that Andrew Fedorowicz had a cult-leader-like hold over his friends’ thoughts and actions but didn’t call any witnesses who claimed this was true. Even in 2011, Stott recalls friends of the defendants in the courtroom who “looked like Fedorowicz with the ponytail, under his control,” and that despite their claims to be long-term friends who met at church, the group explains “who these people really are ... [and] what draws them together.” In contrast to other parts of the trial, Stott refused to provide details to help substantiate this claim. When asked to recount only the evidence presented at trial regarding the allegedly cult-like group, Stott said there wasn’t any because it “wasn’t really relevant to who did it.”