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Donald Cockrell on Trial for Beating and Starving 3-Year-Old Daughter to Death

An Oregon father is on trial for beating and starving his three-year-old daughter to death after her underweight and bruised body was found at his home. 

Donald Lee Cockrell, 30, is pleading not guilty to murdering daughter Alexis Marie Pounder with fiancee Michelle Nicole Smith. 

The incident occurred in January of 2010. 

His fiancee pleaded guilty to killing the girl last year. She faces a minimum of 30 years behind bars and is testifying against Cockrell. 

"Lexi" was just 21 pounds when she was found in their garbage-filled home. Four other children under age 5 lived at the house as well. 

Authorities and investigators say it was one of the worst cases they have seen. 

Lexi lived at the home since October of 2009. She was frequently beaten and not given food because she was incontinent and soiled herself. 

When the family went to a fast food restaurant, Lexi was the only one who did not get food. 

The cause of death was a blunt force head trauma. The autopsy also reported numerous injuries to her body. 

Cockrell said he "woke up" and found her "dead."

The other children were also abused at the home. Sister Kara had to look around the dirty floor and in the garbage for food. She slept in a small space between the wall and a couch. 

Cockrell is being charged with aggravated murder, murder by abuse and criminal mistreatment. Trial will likely last six weeks. Witnesses include the paramedic who answered the 911 call and Smith's parents who lived above the couple's apartment. 

Jenny Cooke, Cockrell's attorney, said Lexi died because she became ill and suffered from pneumonia. She said the bruises were caused by normal childhood accidents or from one of the other children. Cooke also explained that Cockrell was not aware of Lexi's weight loss. 

Cooke plans to portray Smith as an unreliable witness who was addicted to painkillers. Smith is the only person who saw Cockrell beat Lexi. 

The rest of the children are now living with relatives. 

Lexi's biological mother Heather Pounder said she was rarely ever able to see her child. She saw her four weeks before she died, as Cockrell would not allow her over. 

"There's really no words to explain what it's like for me," she said. "I try to find the words and I can't - my worst nightmare."

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