Crime Scene

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'Hot sauce mom' was trying to get help, lawyer says

Frame grab of Jessica Beagley on the Dr. Phil show in November 2010.Frame grab of Jessica Beagley on the Dr. Phil show in November 2010.

From Casey Grove at the courthouse --

An Anchorage jury heard opening statements today in the trial of Jessica Beagley, an Anchorage mother accused of abusing her adopted Russian son by putting hot sauce in his mouth and forcing him into a cold shower as punishment for bad behavior.

Beagley, 36, faces one misdemeanor count of child abuse.

Municipal prosecutor Cynthia Franklin told the six-member jury -- plus two alternates -- that the abuse case centered around videos Beagley sent to the Dr. Phil show.

Beagley wrote in April 2009 to the show, which features licensed therapist Phil McGraw doling out advice on national television, after she saw a segment called "Angry Moms." Beagley was having trouble dealing with behavioral problems with one of the two twin boys she and her husband, an Anchorage police officer, had adopted from Russia.

Producers from the show did not write back until October 2010, asking Beagley if she was still having trouble. They were preparing for a segment called "Mommy Confessions."

"She said she was still angry," Franklin told the jurors.

The producers asked for video footage of Beagley's disciplinary methods. "That led to the making of this video tape," Franklin said.

The scene in the courtroom today. Beagley's story made headlines across the country and in Russia. Casey Grove photo.The scene in the courtroom today. Beagley's story made headlines across the country and in Russia. Casey Grove photo.

Detectives would later apply for a search warrant and seize a camera and computer from the Beagley residence, Franklin said.

"You will see some of the videos Jessica Beagley made, including the one that was clipped up, put on 'Dr. Phil' and prompted the calls to (Anchorage police)," Franklin told the jurors.

Beagley's lawyer, William Ingaldson, delivered his opening statement next.

"This case is not about whether Jessica Beagley used a punishment that you or I would use," Ingaldson said. "It's about Jessica Beagley being charged with criminal child abuse."

For the punishment to constitute a crime, prosecutors would have to prove it was done cruelly, gratuitously and with intent to inflict pain, among other criteria, Ingaldson said.

The Beagleys knew about the challenges they'd face by adopting, Ingaldson said. But behavioral issues with one of the boys proved to be far more difficult than they expected, he said.

When Jessica Beagley was contacted by the "Dr. Phil" show, the producers said they needed video of her punishing the kids, Ingaldson said.

"Jessica's response was, 'I'm not going to punish my kids just to get on the show,' " Ingaldson said.

Ingaldson said the producers indicated they didn't want her to punish them just for the show, but that Beagley might keep a video camera handy in case she needed to punish one of the children.

"She didn't know what to do with the kids," Ingaldson said. "She was trying to get help."

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. Read more about the trial and find links to previous stories here.

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