A Tuscumbia woman was found guilty by a jury in Laclede County, Friday, of charges in connection with the death of a two-year old child in February 2008.
Cheryl A. Patrick, 23, was charged with second-degree murder and felony child abuse for the death of her boyfriend's daughter, 28 month old Alexis Ward.
According to a press release from Miller County Prosecutor Matt Howard, the jury deliberated almost three hours before finding Patrick guilty on both the murder and child abuse counts.
The sentencing stage of the trial was then held and within an hour after returning their verdicts the jury returned a recommendation of 20 years in prison for murder and 20 years in prison on the charge of child abuse.
Judge Stan Moore then ordered a pre-sentence investigation advisory report and scheduled final sentencing in the case for December 3 at the Lebanon courthouse.
Patrick, who was 18 at the time of the crime, was the regular caretaker of Alexis.
On February 8, 2008, the child was found by paramedics in an unresponsive condition and was immediately flown by helicopter to University Hospital in Columbia where she was diagnosed with severe head and brain trauma.
Alexis died at the hospital two days later.
Following reports by medical staff of the suspicious nature of the infant's injuries, an investigation into the death was started.
The investigation went on for nearly four months until Patrick was arrested in May 2008.
"The defendant (Patrick) initially gave explanations of an accident to account for the child's injuries which police quickly determined were implausible, but then the defendant misled investigators with seemingly convincing allegations of abuse by the child's father," Howard said. "Only after painstaking and thorough fact checking of the very small details of the allegations were investigators able to conclusively establish that the defendant was fabricating essential parts of the story. Patrick was arrested and investigators obtained a detailed confession of the episode of fatal child abuse perpetrated by the defendant against Alexis."
The five day trial started on Monday in Laclede County due to a change of venue ordered at the request of Patrick's attorney.
The prosecution's case was presented by Miller County Assistant Prosecutor Roger Gibbons who explained the blunt force trauma that had been inflicted and told the jury in closing argument, "Make no mistake, the defendant literally beat the life out of this little girl".
Howard, who assisted throughout the trial, noted that those strong words fit this case perfectly.
"Even with a confession, a case like this is very challenging because there are limited external signs of injury," he said. "The medical science surrounding these types of abusive head trauma injury is complicated and there are increasing numbers of paid medical consultant's who come to court and will dispute even the most clear evidence of abuse to mislead a jury."