12-year-old testifies against stepmother in starvation death trial

Miranda Casarez faces up to life in prison if convicted of injury to a child

SAN ANTONIO – The older brother of 4-year-old Benjamin Cervera loves art and drawing trees. But the picture he painted of his stepmother, Miranda Casarez, in a Bexar County courtroom on Thursday was dark.

“Miranda put all locks on the fridge, the counter—everything,” Benjamin’s 12-year-old brother said on the witness stand in the trial of Cazares, who is charged with injury to a child.

The 12-year-old testified that Casarez would treat her son and him differently than Benjamin.

“She would get mad whenever he would spill stuff or when he did stuff on accident,” he said, adding that Casarez would physically punish Benjamin.

“Miranda would grab Benji and throw him up into the air and make sure he falls to the ground,” the 12-year-old said. “It would hurt Benji, and he would cry.”

He said Casarez would starve Benjamin. He said she would sometimes force the 4-year-old to drink hot sauce, toilet water, and hand sanitizer.

“She would usually force Benji to open his mouth by grabbing his mouth and trying to open it,” the 12-year-old said. “Benji would usually cry because it hurts, and hand sanitizer tastes bad.”

He said Casarez would mistreat Benjamin when his father wasn’t home.

“Did Miranda ever tell you to keep what she did to Benji a secret?” asked the prosecutor.

“Yes,” replied the 12-year-old.

“How many times?” asked the prosecutor.

“A lot,” said the 12-year-old.

The medical examiner said Benjamin died in August of 2021 from starvation.

The 12-year-old said he felt like he couldn’t speak up to help before.

“I was afraid,” he testified.

If Cazares is found guilty, she faces up to life in prison.

Court records show Benjamin’s father, Brandon Cervera, is set to stand trial next month. He’s charged with injury to a child by omission.


Jury sees video of child begging for food on first day of starvation death trial

About the Authors

Daniela Ibarra joined the KSAT News team in July 2023. This isn’t her first time in the KSAT newsroom– the San Antonio native spent the summer of 2017 as an intern. Daniela is a proud Mean Green alum, earning her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of North Texas.

Sal Salazar is a photojournalist at KSAT 12. Before coming to KSAT in 1998, he worked at the Fox affiliate in San Antonio. Sal started off his career back in 1995 for the ABC Affiliate in Lubbock and has covered many high-profile news events since. In his free time, he enjoys spending time at home, gaming and loves traveling with his wife.

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