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Murder Trial Begins For Stepfather In Faked Abduction

April 29, 1996

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) _ A 7-year-old girl was abused for three months until she was finally suffocated by a stepfather who tried to mask the killing with a story of abduction, a prosecutor said today as the man’s trial began.

Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty for John Zile, who is charged with beating Christina Holt to death in September 1994.

``This is a case not about corporal punishment, this is a case _ as it regards to Christina Holt _ about capital punishment,″ said prosecutor Scott Cupp.

The prosecutor said that at the time of her death, the girl’s lips were swollen and bloody, her buttocks and face bruised.

Zile, who turns 34 this week, and his wife, Pauline, claimed that Christina disappeared from a Fort Lauderdale flea market. Later, it was learned the girl had been beaten to death at the family’s Riviera Beach apartment and buried behind a discount store.

In his statement, defense lawyer Craig Wilson said a confession Zile made, leading police to the body, was coerced. Zile had been kept awake 60 hours before he made the admission, Wilson said.

Prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Mrs. Zile, saying she failed to protect her daughter from John Zile and also abused her. Mrs. Zile, who was convicted of murder, was sentenced to life in prison without parole last June.

At the time, the judge said that Mrs. Zile did not kill her daughter but was there when Christina died and then helped cover up the crime.

A month after Christina’s death, Mrs. Zile tearfully described on television how her daughter had been abducted from the restroom of a Fort Lauderdale flea market. But authorities noted inconsistencies in her story and how she was referring to her daughter in the past tense.

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