NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - The trial for the man accused of murdering a 12-year-old girl began on Tuesday in Davidson County Criminal Court.

Roy Coons Jr., one the family’s neighbor, is on trail for the 2017 murder of Yhoana Artega.

Yhoana’s mother took the stand on Tuesday in the first day of testimony.

Patricia Velazquez was fiercely protective of her children.

They weren’t allowed to shower while she wasn’t home for fear they would fall in the tub.

She had only been working two weeks at a dry cleaner when her worst fears became reality.

“Sushi was her favorite food, so I was making sushi for her,” Velazquez told the jury of the last memory she has with her daughter.

“Then she just went to sit down with me by her side and, then the time came when I had to go to work.”

When she arrived home the evening of Aug. 10, 2017, she would find her 12-year-old daughter strangled, beaten and partially undressed on the floor of her bedroom.

“I touched Yhoana and she was cold. I touched her arm. She was cold,” Velazquez testified. “She had a karate belt around her neck. She had two rounds of it.”

Two hours before Velazquez got home, she received two texts from her daughter.

“Mom, somebody’s knocking on the door. He’s already gone. I think it was the man who cuts the yard. I responded ‘OK, don’t make any noise,” Velazquez said.

Coons was the man hired to cut the grass at the trailer where Velazquez lived alone with her three children.

She had strict rules when her children were home alone.

“I would tell them they can’t open the door if somebody would knock on the door,” Velazquez testified. “They were supposed to try to not make any noise if they heard somebody knocking.”

Yhoana was the only one of her children to stay home from school that day. She had an injured ankle.

It was Velazquez’s oldest daughter who found Yhoana first and called 911.

“[Redacted] saying mom, something’s happened to Yhoana,” Velazquez said. “I ran, walked fast, screaming Yhoana! Yhoana! I had to stay between the front door checking my children and also checking Yhoana’s bedroom.”

It’s unclear how the state is suggesting Coons got into the trailer.

The oldest daughter, now 15, was the first person to find Yhoana in their shared bedroom.

She described the karate belt that was used to strangle her sister to the jury.

“What belt did you have?” prosecutors asked. “If I can remember correctly, I think I was at first rank blue belt,” she replied.

The oldest daughter and Yhoana took Tae Kwon Do lessons. She was the first person to find the belt around her sister’s neck nearly two years ago.

Coons remained emotionless throughout Monday’s testimony.

A DNA expert testified that the only places his DNA were found in the home was on a window and a cigarette butt.

The jury was selected on Monday and testimony began on Tuesday. The trial will resume on Wednesday.

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Reporter

Rebecca Cardenas is a Murrow-award winning journalist who joined News4 as a reporter in September 2017. She currently covers the court systems in Middle Tennessee.

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