SARASOTA, Florida (AP) -- A judge in Sarasota has set a trial date for a couple accused in the abuse death of an autistic child.

Circuit Judge Frederick Mercurio said Tuesday the trial will begin Feb. 3.

Melissa Stoddard was 11 when authorities say she died of a lack of oxygen to the brain. Prosecutors say the girl had been tied and forced to sleep on a plywood board, her mouth duct-taped shut before her death last year.

Attorneys say their clients are innocent. Stepmother Misty Stoddard faces first-degree murder and aggravated child abuse charges while Kenneth Stoddard is accused of aggravated child abuse.


Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports

the child lived North Carolina with her mother in North Carolina until 2012 when she moved to Florida because an older sibling was abusing her.

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