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Accused child killer faces long awaited trial

After spending three years in the Clackamas County Jail, Donald Cockrell faces a jury Jan. 7


Almost to the day, three years after 3-year-old Alexis M. Pounder was pronounced dead at her family home near Sandy, her father is set to go to trial for her death.

Donald L. Cockrell, accused child killerDonald Lee Cockrell, 30, has been in custody since Jan. 10, 2010, awaiting trial. He has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include three counts of aggravated murder, three counts of murder, five counts of first-degree criminal mistreatment and five counts of using a controlled substance. There were 17 other counts that already have been dismissed.

Cockrell was granted a postponement of the trial, which had been scheduled last April, so his attorney, Jenny Cooke of Oregon City, could have sufficient time to prepare a defense.

Michelle N. Smith, admitted child killerMichelle Nicole Smith, 27, is a key prosecution witness, said Christine Landers, deputy district attorney who is prosecuting the case. Smith was Cockrell’s fiancé in 2010. The two were living at her parents’ home near Sandy. Cockrell, Smith and five children were on one level of the home, while Smith’s parents were living on another level.

Cockrell and Smith were arrested Jan. 10, 2010, after authorities were called to the home at 22050 Cottontail Lane, southeast of Sandy, on the reported death of Cockrell’s 3-year-old daughter.

Sheriff’s deputies who investigated the incident allege that one or both adults beat and starved the toddler until she died. An autopsy performed by Dr. Larry Lewman of the Oregon State Medical Examiner’s Office revealed the little girl died of “physical and nutritional child abuse.”

Cockrell’s other child showed similar signs of abuse, Landers told The Post soon after the arrest. All four children were taken into protective custody, according to a sheriff’s detective.

Smith pleaded guilty last year to one count of aggravated murder, three counts of murder by abuse and four counts of criminal mistreatment, and she will be sentenced to 30 years behind bars without parole if she cooperates by testifying against Cockrell.

“Part of (Smith’s) deal is her testimony at (Cockrell’s) trial,” Landers said. “Sentencing (for Smith) would typically take place after (Cockrell’s) trial.”

Both have been held without bail for the past three years in the Clackamas County Jail.

“If Donald Cockrell is found guilty of aggravated murder,” Landers said, “there will be a subsequent trial — we call it the penalty phase, where the same jury considers three (sentence) options.”

Those options include life in prison without parole, or the death penalty if all 12 jurors agree, or life behind bars with parole after 30 years if 10 jurors agree.

The trial is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Monday, Jan. 7, in the courtroom of Clackamas County Circuit Court Judge Susie Norby.