Here are the known facts: on May 18, 2014, 20-month-old Anna Bell died of a fractured skull in her Norfolk, Virginia home. Her lifeless body was found at the bottom of a staircase. Was it an accident, or was someone else responsible? And was that someone an adult ... or another child?

Arrested for second-degree murder and “malicious wounding:” Emily DeFries, a 25-year-old former sailor, who was the girlfriend (and, briefly, fiancee) of Bell’s father at the time of the tragedy. She has pled not guilty to the charges, and the trial, currently underway, took a surprising turn during opening arguments.

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The local ABC News station reports:

The defense attorney for the former sailor accused of killing her fiance’s 20-month-old daughter last year suggested the toddler’s older sister was responsible for the death.

Emily Defries’ attorney, James Broccoletti, offered the new theory of Anna Bell’s death during opening arguments in the murder trial Monday.

The 8-year-old girl used to have violent outbursts directed at Anna leading up to her death, Broccoletti told the jury.

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The eight-year-old girl testified in court today, and while she admitted to having a “rocky relationship” with the baby, she denied causing her death:

The little girl, holding a tissue and a stuffed animal while on the stand, said she found her younger sister lying on the ground at the bottom of the stairs and saw Defries standing over her crying.

..Prosecutors say Anna’s severely fractured skull could not have come from a fall down a 13 foot carpeted staircase and accuse Defries of deliberately smashing the child’s head in.

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The injuries suffered by the child appeared to be more consistent with “shaking and slamming,” prosecutors said. The NY Daily News also makes mention of “incriminating” testimony from a day-care worker who claimed baby Anna was afraid of DeFries.

We’ll keep an eye on this gut-wrenching case as it develops, but as a side note: reading this news story, we thought we’d covered it before—but we were just thinking of an eerily similar case that happened in 1971. In that case, the alleged perpetrator was vindicated after spending nearly her entire life being told she’d accidentally killed her infant brother when she was two; 25 years later, her former stepfather was convicted of the crime.

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Image by Alosh Bennett