Tag Archives: Physical Abuse

Justice For Leiliana

.jpg photo of a little girl that probably didn't have many good days in her life.
Leiliana Wright

‘You should die in a locked closet,’ judge
tells man convicted in savage beating
death of 4-year-old

A Grand Prairie man was convicted of capital murder in the “savage” beating death of his girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter in a case the judge said was the worst he’d ever seen.

The Children Pay This Tab

Charles Wayne Phifer, 36, received an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole for the March 2016 murder of Leiliana Wright.

CPS Failed Leiliana Wright

Leiliana was beaten with a bamboo switch and belts and thrown against a wall.  Her mother, 33-year-old Jeri Quezada, pleaded guilty to felony injury to a child as part of a plea agreement that will lock her behind bars for 50 years.

CPS Ignored Possible Sexual Abuse Of Leiliana

Quezada will be formally sentenced by the judge Wednesday, and relatives will have the chance to give a victim impact statement at that time to both Quezada and Phifer.

Child Abuse Registry Needed

Quezada testified against Phifer, who she said bound Leiliana’s hands behind her back and strung the little girl up in a closet.

I Let Leiliana Wright Down

State District Judge Robert Burns told Phifer that life behind bars was insufficient for what Leiliana suffered.

“I think this is the worst case I’ve ever seen,” Burns told Phifer.

“Hanging a little girl in a locked closet was savage.  You should die in a locked closet,” the judge said.

Jurors deliberated for about four hours before delivering the guilty verdict.

Many were visibly shaken during the three days of testimony, during which they were shown photos of Leiliana’s battered body.

The little girl was covered from head to toe in bruises and had at least 30 bruises on her back from where she was whipped.

Defense attorneys John Tatum and Stephen Miller argued that Quezada is a liar who was trying to save herself by blaming Phifer for her daughter’s death.

“She set Charles up because that was the only way to get out of this,” Miller said.

Leiliana’s death exposed a staffing crisis in Child Protective Services. The girl’s paternal grandparents reported possible abuse to the state agency months before she was killed.

Quezada was a known drug user and had run-ins with child protection authorities in Texas and Illinois, where she received probation for hitting her stepson.

Quezada had five children, including Leiliana, with three different men.  The surviving four children are living with relatives.

“Charles Phifer does not have any motive to hurt or do anything to this child,” Miller said.  “He’s living in a house rent free with no obligations.  Why would he screw that up?”

“She’s the one who keeps having kids she doesn’t want,” he said.

A medical report presented by defense attorneys shows that Leiliana had bruises on her body at least a month before her death.  Defense counsel argued that the prior abuse shows Quezada was responsible for her girl’s death.

During trial, Quezada admitted that she would sometimes hit her daughter.  She said she used a switch made from bamboo to strike the little girl’s legs.

Prosecutors Eren Price and Travis Wiles argued that Quezada and Phifer were responsible for Leiliana’s death but that Phifer was the one who was alone with the child for hours the day of her deadly beating.

Price disputed the defense counsel’s accusation that Quezada was simply saving herself by pinning Leiliana’s death on Phifer.

“I’m not sure the next 50 years in prison can be considered saving your own skin,” Price argued.

The prosecutor said someone needed to shed light on what happened to Leiliana, and Quezada’s story was backed up by evidence.

A strand of the girl’s hair was found embedded in the wall where Quezada said Phifer threw the girl.  Leiliana’s DNA was also found on gloves used by Phifer, a DNA expert testified during the trial.

Quezada said she saw her daughter vomit in the living room and then Phifer put on gloves, grab the girl by her cheeks, lift her from the ground and pour Pedialyte down the child’s throat.

The mother also said Phifer showed her where he had tied up Leiliana in a dark, tiny closet in the living room.  Leiliana’s wrists were bound behind her body and she was “strung up” so she couldn’t sit.

“There’s nothing warm and fuzzy about this story,” Wiles said during closing arguments.  “The last loving arms that reached out for Leiliana Wright were the strong, loving arms of a stranger.”

During the trial, a paramedic who tried to save Leiliana cried recounting how badly bruised the little girl was.

Wiles said Quezada’s story about the 48 hours or so before Leiliana’s death is corroborated by cellphone records.

Those records showed Quezada was away with her youngest child for much of the day.  She testified she went with her family to eat at an Arlington steakhouse that night.  Quezada’s mother confirmed.

Leiliana stayed with Phifer.

“This man was trusted not just with her care but her life, and he took it,” Wiles argued.

Quezada returned to the Grand Prairie home after 9 p.m.  She said that when she got there, her first concern was using heroin with Phifer.

She later asked about Leiliana, and that’s when she discovered her daughter was in the closet.

“In life, Leiliana Wright deserved peace.  In her death, she deserves justice,” Wiles said.

80 Percent Of The Time

.jpg photo of man accused of abusing two children
Jacob John Weld, 29, of Petoskey

Petoskey man facing sexual assault,
Child Abuse charges

PETOSKEY, MI  –  A Petoskey area man is facing multiple felony charges in connection with allegations that he sexually and physically abused two young children, respectively.

Jacob John Weld, 29, of Petoskey was arrested last week on two counts of first-degree criminal sexual conduct.  The charge is a felony which carries a maximum penalty of up to life in prison and a mandatory minimum sentence of 25 years in prison.  He was arrested on the afternoon of Oct. 10 on the charge.

At the time of his arrest on the sexual assault charges he was out of jail on bond following an Oct. 1 arrest on a charge of third-degree child abuse.  That charge is a felony punishable by up to two years in prison.

According to a Michigan State Police affidavit of probable cause filed in the case, the sexual assault charges stem from allegations that Weld sexually assaulted a young child at a home in Emmet County on at least two occasions in August and September of this year.  Police said the child came forward with the allegation on Oct. 8.  Police further said in the affidavit that when they interviewed Weld, he admitted to the actions with the child leading to the sexual assault charges.

In the child abuse case, Weld is accused of causing injury to a different young child.

In that case, Emmet County Sheriff’s Office deputies said in an affidavit of probable cause that the case was initially referred to police from a Michigan Department of Health and Human Services representative who was investigating a child abuse complaint. In the affidavit, police said the alleged abuse happened on or around Sept. 23. Police said an adult noticed bruising on the back of the child’s leg on Sept. 29. Police said the child reported having been spanked with a belt by Weld.
Police said when they interviewed Weld he said he “probably used a belt to spank (the child).”

Weld was originally released from jail on Oct. 1 after posting a $50,000 surety bond. But he now remains lodged in the Emmet County Jail in connection with the sexual assault case, for which a new bond has been set at $2 million.

Weld is slated to face preliminary examinations in both cases on Oct. 24 in 90th District Court.

Kentucky Toddler Beat With Leash

.jpg photo of Kentucky toddler beat with dog leash
Jaxsin Fellows is pictured one week after an alleged beating that Jaxsin’s father says involved a dog leash.

`Dad says dog leash used in NKY Child
Abuse case.  Investigator calls it ‘worst
I’ve seen’

Boone County, KY  –  A dog leash was used to whip a 3-year-old boy in Northern Kentucky, according to the boy’s father.

Jaxsin Fellows suffered facial abrasions, a swollen eye and chipped teeth.  He needed five stitches.

His father, Nick Fellows of Erlanger, Kentucky, said his son’s mother, Karen Spurlock, told him a dog leash was used in the beating.

Spurlock and her boyfriend, Shane C. Sasher, face criminal abuse and second-degree assault charges in the incident.  They initially blamed the boy’s injuries on a fall down stairs, the Boone County Sheriff’s Office said.

The pair “thought he was deceased” the morning after the alleged assault, the sheriff’s office said.

Sgt. Philip Ridgell said he and other investigators were appalled by what they discovered.

“In my experience, it’s one of the worst (cases) I’ve seen,” Ridgell said.

Jaxsin’s paternal grandmother, Diane Fellows, established a GoFundMe account to defray medical and rehabilitation bills as well as future legal bills for custody of Jaxsin.

More than $1,200 has been raised toward a $10,000 goal.

Nick Fellows said he also hopes to donate to another family suffering similarly and to ProKids.org of Cincinnati, which works to break the “vicious cycle of child abuse and neglect.”

Jaxsin had been staying with his mother and Sasher in the 10000 block of Irish Way in Union, Kentucky at the time he was beaten, according to Ridgell.

On Sept. 18, medical professionals at St. Elizabeth Edgewood notified law enforcement that Jaxsin had “significant facial injuries consistent with abuse,” including abrasions and contusions beneath his eyes and to his forehead, temples and cheeks.

Over the course of a three-day probe, the sheriff’s office said, investigators learned the boy was alone in the residence with Spurlock and Sasher the night before.
After suffering separate assaults, the sheriff’s office said, the victim was given Motrin and put to bed.  Spurlock and Sasher attempted to wake him up the next morning, and before he awoke they believed he may be dead.

Detectives found inconsistencies in their statements, according to authorities. Spurlock said Sasher told her not to report the initial injuries the boy suffered from the first assault.

Neither Spurlock nor Sasher has confessed to meting out the abuse, Ridgell said. They’re charged equally because they were the only ones in the home when the alleged abuse occurred.

Spurlock and Sasher’s bonds were set at $100,000, Ridgell said.  They remain in custody at the Boone County Jail.

A preliminary hearing is set for Oct. 1.

KY Mother And Boyfriend Abuse Toddler

.jpg photo of man charged with abusing toddler
Shane Sasher, was charged Friday with abusing a 3-year-old child.

Two people assaulted 3-year-old, thought he was dead the next morning, police say

BOONE COUNTY, KY  –  Two Northern Kentuckians were arrested Friday for allegedly abusing a 3-year-old child, according to the Boone County Sheriff’s Office.

.jpg photo of mother charged with abusing toddler
Karen Spurlock was charged Friday with abusing a 3-year-old child.

Shane C. Sasher and Karen Spurlock face criminal abuse and second-degree assault charges in incidents that left a boy badly beaten.  The pair “thought he was deceased” the next morning, according to the sheriff’s office.

The boy, Spurlock’s son, lived with his mother and Sasher in the 10000 block of Irish Way in Union, Kentucky.

On Tuesday, medical professionals at St. Elizabeth Edgewood notified law enforcement that the boy had “significant facial injuries consistent with abuse,” including abrasions and contusions beneath his eyes and to his forehead, temples and cheeks.

The victim’s left eye was swollen shut.

Over the course of a three-day probe, the sheriff’s office said, investigators learned the boy was alone in the residence with Spurlock and Sasher the night before.

After suffering separate assaults, the sheriff’s office said, the victim was given Motrin and put to bed.  Spurlock and Sasher attempted to wake him up the next morning, and before he awoke they believed he may be dead.

They later took him to the hospital, blaming the injuries on a fall down stairs, the sheriff’s office said.

Detectives found inconsistencies in their statements, according to authorities. Spurlock said Sasher told her not to report the initial injuries the boy suffered from the first assault.

The child is now in the custody of a relative.

Sgt. Philip Ridgell, a spokesman for the Boone County sheriff’s office, said Spurlock and Sasher are in custody at the Boone County Jail.  No bond or arraignment date has been set.

Mothers And Meth

Meth-Addicted Mothers and Child Abuse

THE ATLANTIC SELECTS
Video by Mary Newman

In the United States, methamphetamine is making a comeback.  Following the legalization of medical marijuana in California, Mexican cartels pivoted to the production of pure liquid meth, which is brought across the border and crystallized in conversion labs.  There is more meth on the streets than ever before, according to William Ruzzamenti, a 30-year Drug Enforcement Administration veteran and the Executive Director of the Central Valley California HIDTA (High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area).  It’s also cheaper than ever—the average cost of an ounce of methamphetamine dropped from nearly $968 in 2013 to around $250 in 2016.

“I think a lot of people associate meth with the 1990s, and this comeback has gone largely unnoticed in the shadow of the heroin and opioid epidemics,” Mary Newman, a journalist at the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley, told The Atlantic.

Newman’s short documentary, Motherhood and Meth, focuses on the drug’s frequently overlooked and arguably most vulnerable victims: children.  Although no scientific research has been conducted that directly correlates meth addiction to child abuse or neglect, many experts on the subject report a connection that Newman describes as “staggering.”  In her film, Newman interviews Dr. Philip Hyden, a child abuse specialist who has worked across the U.S. for more than 30 years.  Since 2010, Dr. Hyden has served as the medical director at the Valley Children’s Hospital in Fresno, the poorest urban ZIP code in the state.  Fresno experiences a high incidence of child abuse, and Dr. Hyden attributes one cause to the high rate of methamphetamine addiction in the region.  He estimates that meth use is involved in over 70% of the 1,000 abuse cases the clinic sees each year.

“We see children that have been beaten or abused in many scenarios where the perpetrator was on meth at the time,” Dr. Hyden says in the film.  “We see things that are hard to believe that happen to kids.”

This abuse sometimes begins during pregnancy; an estimated 19,000 meth users in the U.S. are pregnant women.  In home environments where meth is manufactured, children almost always test positive for methamphetamine—often at levels as high as addicted users, according to an expert in the film.

To get a firsthand look at the effects of methamphetamine addiction on mothers and their children, Newman’s documentary follows law enforcement officers, professionals at treatment facilities, and mothers affected by meth addiction who admit to having neglected their kids.  Newman met many of these women at Fresno’s weekly free needle exchange.  She interviewed more than twenty women—some of whom agreed to participate, only to disappear once a shoot date was scheduled—before she found the subjects featured in the film.

“Once I built up some essential trust with women willing to share their struggles of addiction, I would ask if meth ever caused them or someone in their life to become violent,” Newman said.  “Everyone responded with an emphatic ‘yes.’”  Newman added that she heard “harrowing” stories about domestic violence, child abuse, and a generational cycle of meth addiction.  Many of the addicts she spoke to were either the child of a meth addict themselves or had experienced abuse early in life.

“The power methamphetamine has on a person’s life was the most surprising part of [reporting] this story,” Newman said.  “I would speak with people struggling with addiction and they would have a certain self-awareness that their decisions were derailing their life, but they would also describe a feeling of complete helplessness.” Newman said that several people—both addicts and experts—described meth as “evil” due to the sheer power over the people that use it.

“These kids are the ultimate victims,” says a police officer in the film.  “They didn’t ask for this.”