BOISE -- Daniel Ehrlick took the stand for the first time in his own defense Monday.
Ehrlick is accused of abusing 8-year-old Robert Manwill, which the prosecution says lead to the boy's death.
Thousands of Boise residents helped to search for the boy for more than one week after he was reported missing. Robert's body was found August 3, 2009, in an irrigation canal near Kuna.
Ehrlick took the stand just after 10 a.m. Monday and he was questioned by the defense until 1:30 p.m.
Defense questioning begins
Ada County Public Defender Gus Cahill began by asking Ehrlick, Are you responsible for the death of Robert Manwill?
Ehrlick replied, No sir.
As the testimony continued, Ehrlick broke down intotears, The first time I had contact with Robert. He asked me if I could be his dad.
Cahill went on to ask Ehrlick about the rest of the family. Ehrlick testified that he is not the biological father of Robert's younger brother, Aidan. Even so, he said he later took on that role.
The defense attorney asked Ehrlick a lot of questions about his role in the kids' lives, for example, what their living and transportation situations were, and how often he was home with the kids.
Ehrlick said he was the primary caregiver for Melissa Jenkins' toddler, newborn son, and Robert when he was there, while she was at work.
The defense attorney asked, Were you involved in the discipline of Robert that summer?
Ehrlick replied No.
Cahill asked Ehrlick to describe the kinds of things he would do with Robert during the summer of 2009, What other stuff did you do with Robert that summer besides swimming, skateboard park, going to your dad's on weekends, going to the care center to see your mom?
Ehrlick replied, Going to the stores, stuff like that. I ended up taking Robert to get clothes and shoes, you know, because I was tired of him wearing beat up stuff that he had.
Later, Cahill revisited the issue of Robert's clothing. Did you do anything that summer to modify his clothing so that you were hiding things?
Ehrlick said, No.
When the defense asked Ehrlick why Robert was sleeping in his sister's room, he said Robert complained that Aidan was waking him up in the middle of the night. So Robert was sleeping in his sister's room temporarily, for about a week, until Ehrlick and Jenkins got another bed ready for him.
Ehrlick said he put a hole in the wall while he was running to answer the phone. Ehrlick said he slipped and hit the wall with his knee.
Defense questions Ehrlick about the day Robert went missing
When Robert went missing, Ehrlick was fixing dinner. He said when he tried to call Robert in for dinner, that is when he realized he was nowhere to be found. Ehrlick said he assumed Robert had sneaked off to a birthday party he had not given Robert permission to attend.
He found where the birthday party was believed to have been held. Robert was not there and there was no party. That is when Melissa Jenkins arrived from work to help search. They called 911 after checking for Robert at the birthday party.
Ehrlick said as time went on, more and more people turned out to help search for Robert.
Cahill asked Ehrlick if he punched a wall in the early morning hours after Robert went missing.
Ehrlick said he did injure his hand while punching the wall because he was upset thatRobert went missing whileon his watch.
When Cahill asked Ehrlick about Robert's discipline, he mentioned a form of punishment referred to as dead bug.
The defense attorney described dead bug as the child being forced to lie on his back with his hands and feet in the air. He then asked Ehrlick if this ever happened with Robert.
It happened a couple of times, Ehrlick responded.
When that happened, did you ever drop your knees on his stomach causing him a traumatic abdominal injury? asked the defense.
No. I told them that there was one time that Robert was acting up, he was screaming and throwing a little fit and I walked over and I knelt down and not put my weight on him or nothing. I just knelt down and told him he needs to cut it out and he needs to do what he's told, Ehrlick said in his defense.
The defense then brought up another form of punishment, one in which Ehrlick agrees that Robert chose himself.
How about with the piece of molding? Did you ever strike Robert with that? Cahill asked Ehrlick.
I did. That was two swats on one occasion, he replied.
Was that a situation where he chose to have that form of discipline rather than some other? asked Cahill.
That is correct, Ehrlick replied. I called his mom. No matter what discipline took place, I was not allowed to do it myself. I was supposed to have called Melissa and told her what the problem was and she would tell me what to do.
When the defense brought up Ehrlick's overdose which sent him to the hospital, Ehrlick said he had just wanted to sleep and so he took about ten to twelve sleeping pills before he was finally able to fall asleep.
He later ended up in the hospital and was told he was going to be put on a mental hold.
Defense's last question
Before the prosecution took over, the defense asked Ehrlick a series of final questions:
Defense: Did any of the disciplinary activities you had with Robert, were any of those the cause of his death?
Defense: Do you know what hapepned to him that night?
Ehrlick: I do not.
Defense: Did you ever assist anyone in killing him or disposing of his body?
Lastly, when asked if he is responsible for the boy's death, Ehrlick responded, I am not responsible for Robert Manwill's death.
Prosecution on cross examination
The prosecution's cross examination of Daniel Ehrlick began at 1:30 p.m. Monday.
On cross, the prosecution confirmed with Ehrlick that he is not the biological father of Aidan.
When Ehrlick confirmed that was true, the prosecution asked why he showed up to court in October of 2008 with false affidavits claiming he was the child's biological father.
The prosecution went on to list Ehrlick's criminal history, including residential burglary and grand theft.
The prosecution's line of questioning was interrupted at about 1:45 p.m. and the judge decided to end the day early in order to speak with the attorneys without the jury present.
Daniel Ehrlick is expected to take the stand again Tuesday morning.
Get caught up on Monday's testimonyvia the KTVB Live Blog by clicking here.