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Accused child killers trial delayed until 2013

The trial of accused child killer Donald Cockrell, which was set to begin today, April 4, has been postponed until Jan. 7, 2013, said Clackamas County Deputy District Attorney Christine Landers.

The reason for the delay is that Cockrell's attorney, Jenny Cooke of Portland, was granted more time to prepare a defense for Cockrell, who pleaded not guilty to 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, 30, and his fiancee at the time of the incident, Michelle Smith, 27, were arrested Jan. 10, 2010, after authorities were called to her parents' home at 22050 Cottontail Lane, southeast of Sandy, where the two were living on one level with five children - three were hers and two were his. Her parents were living on a separate level.

Sheriff's deputies were called to the residence at the reported death of one of his children, 3-year-old Alexis M. Pounder.

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. 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 more than two years in the Clackamas County Jail.

Cockrell's trial is now set to begin three days short of three years from the date of his arrest.

'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, 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 take place in the courtroom of Clackamas County Circuit Court Judge Susie Norby.