A trial date has been set for a man accused of brutally murdering a defenseless toddler in cold blood. The little girl’s mother was his girlfriend of just seven months, who apparently didn’t know the severity of the abuse he’s been accused of inflicting.
KOAA reported that 28-year-old David Lake will stand trial in the beating death of 3-year-old Bella Ritch in May. He reportedly “pleaded not guilty to all charges Thursday morning in an El Paso County Courtroom.”
On October 2, 2017, Bella’s mother, Teresa Ladogana, instructed Lake to dial 911 at approximately 11:21 a.m., afraid that Bella might have “internal bleeding” after she noticed the tot throwing up following a troubling text message from the boyfriend, the Colorado Springs Gazette previously reported.
— Kaitlin Durbin (@njKaitlinDurbin) April 26, 2018
Ladogana, who was interviewed by the newspaper, said she received a text from Lake earlier that morning indicating Bella “had injured herself yet again,” adding that the girl had suffered from “weak legs” and “fell and hit her head.”
“I feel bad lol,” the text reportedly stated. He then apparently told Ladogana that her daughter was “way too fragile.”
When emergency responders arrived at the home, located on the 3700 block of Ensenada Drive, they evidently discovered the little girl “unresponsive.” They said they found several injuries on Bella’s stomach, “forehead, knees and legs.”
Bella was taken to a hospital, where a doctor described her injuries as “the worst injury” he had “ever seen caused by a person,” according to an arrest report obtained by the Gazette.
One of the injuries Bella suffered caused her small intestine to become “detached,” and it “turned necrotic,” officials said.
A doctor alleged, “the only cause for this injury is blunt force trauma and nothing else.”
The toddler, whose mother referred to as her “tiny dancer,” could not be saved, and died at the hospital, according to authorities.
Meanwhile, as Bella fought for her life, police said Lake took off from the scene, prompting an Amber Alert for him and his 3-year-old son.
KKTV reported that Lake was arrested in connection with the girl’s death in April 2018, “more than six months after” Bella died. Police reportedly told the news station the reason the investigation took so long was because “sometimes they may think they know who did it, but it can take a long time to get a break in the case that leads to an arrest.”
— Springs Police (@CSPDPIO) October 2, 2017
According to police, this wasn’t the first time Lake had inflicted injuries on Ladogana’s children. The mother’s children described the harsh punishments inflicted upon them to detectives. They said the man would do such things as “screw his knuckle into their leg muscles until they couldn’t walk,” authorities said. They also alleged that he spanked them and would “smack them in the head.”
“I would switch places with her if I could,” Ladogana, who reportedly said she didn’t realize the extent of the abuse her boyfriend had been inflicting on her children, told the Gazette. “I love all three of my children more than my own life.”
Lake is behind bars without bail on charges of first-degree murder and child abuse resulting in death.
This is a developing story. Check back with CrimeOnline for further developments.
[Feature Photo: Bella Ritch/Cappadona Funeral Home]