DADE CITY — After Keshwar Mangroo's infant son was found dead in his crib one night in November 2000, authorities called the case a likely homicide and cast suspicion on Mangroo and his girlfriend.
But months passed, and no arrest was ever made. Mangroo always maintained his innocence and the death remained a mystery.
Then in 2003, two young boys in Mangroo's care accused him of molesting them. The boys said that it had happened years earlier, when one was between 3 and 6 and the other between 8 and 12, and that Mangroo had touched their private parts while they were wrestling and tickling one another.
Mangroo, now 41, was charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious molestation. His trial started Tuesday, nearly seven years after his arrest.
The boys, now 21 and 16, both testified. They are not being identified because of the nature of the charges.
The older boy gave mostly "yes" and "no" answers, saying he was nervous. He said the incident began with Mangroo caressing his face.
"It was real quick, and he just grabbed us. He just grabbed me," the 21-year-old said.
Under cross examination, he acknowledged that Mangroo had been a father figure to him and regularly showed affection. Mangroo was also a disciplinarian who required him to do housework and work in the family grocery store.
When the boys came forward, they had recently visited with each other, defense attorney Steven Herman said.
"Didn't you say to (the younger boy), 'Do you remember when this happened?' " Herman asked.
"Yes, sir," the older boy said.
"You were the one who brought it up, right?" Herman asked.
"Yes, sir," the boy said.
The younger boy remembered very few specifics about the incident. He said they had been wrestling and then Mangroo touched him in "personal spots." He couldn't remember how it happened.
Mangroo, who now lives in Lutz, faces a maximum of 45 years in prison if convicted. The trial is expected to conclude today.
At the time of his son's death, Mangroo worked at his family's grocery store in St. Petersburg. He said he woke about 4 a.m. on Nov. 22, 2000, to the crying of his infant daughter, who lay in a crib with her twin brother.
Mangroo said he went to the kitchen of their Zephyrhills home to warm a bottle when he heard Maria Morales, his longtime girlfriend, scream, "My baby's dead!"
Puirmesh Mangroo, who was called Bobby, was 26 days old.
Mangroo said his son was black and blue all over his face, "like he was beaten up real bad."
He defended himself and his girlfriend, saying, "We know what kind of parents we are and how we take care of our kids."
Sheriff's investigators said the death was "most definitely" a homicide. A spokesman at the time said this of Mangroo and Morales: "They know more than they are telling us. We do not think they are being totally truthful. They have not been cleared (as suspects)."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.