Prosecutor Kim Parker had contended that Jonell Lloyd beat and choked 18-month-old Chavira Brown before putting her in trash bags. That he knotted them, zipped them into a sofa cushion and left her that way in a Wichita attic last July.
She survived for hours before asphyxiating, according to testimony.
Hitting her with a belt was his way of potty-training her, Lloyd testified. He was upset because the 18-month-old wet herself, the prosecution said.
For such an "unconscionable murder," Parker told jurors Monday morning, they should find Lloyd "fully responsible, nothing less."
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And they did. About three hours after starting deliberations, the jury announced its verdict for Lloyd: guilty of first-degree murder and guilty of child abuse.
Lloyd, 24, testified last week that he didn't choke Chavira or put her in the attic.
After Sedgwick County District Judge Jeff Goering released the jurors, the jury foreman, who asked not to be named, said of the evidence: "We thought it was pretty straightforward."
After the verdict, Chavira's mother, Jessica Jackson, said, "I know Chavira's in a better place now." Chavira's maternal grandmother, Sheervonda Johnson, said that Chavira "can rest in peace ... now that they've found him guilty."
Just after the verdict was read, the two women wiped their tears as they sat in the courtroom.
Lloyd sat expressionless.
His sentencing has been set for 1:30 p.m. Aug. 19.
When Chavira died July 31, Lloyd had been temporarily caring for her at a house at 15th and Green that he shared with his girlfriend and her small child.
He considered Chavira to be his daughter.
The defense contended there was no direct evidence that Lloyd killed the toddler. The defense also argued that a key witness against him lacked credibility.
In her closing argument to jurors, Parker, the chief deputy district attorney, said Chavira had been "in fear, in pain" before she died.
"He admits he beats her with a belt," Parker said of Lloyd. "He admits he loses control" of his hands.
According to Parker, the toddler had been bloodied and bruised, and then Lloyd choked her, put her in trash bags, tied them up, and zipped them into a seat cushion "while she breathes inside."
He then placed her in the attic, where she suffered a "miserable, prolonged death," Parker said.
"He made the decision to seal her death in those bags."
"All the time that she is breathing," he does nothing to help her, Parker said.
Meanwhile, he told friends that he lost the toddler at a park, Parker said. He kept changing his story, his story didn't make sense and all along he was trying "to hide the truth of his crime," Parker said.
"He always knew where she was" in the attic, Parker said. "He just didn't want anybody else to find" her.
Part of his defense was to attack the credibility of his live-in girlfriend, Temeika Loudermilk _ "a woman he shot" in the foot a year before, Parker said.
At the time of Chavira's death, Loudermilk was pregnant and tried to protect herself and her small child by keeping herself away from Lloyd in the house, Parker said.
Because of the shooting, Lloyd was on probation for aggravated battery. He had become a fugitive when he failed to return to a residential corrections facility, so he was wanted on a warrant when Chavira died.
Parker repeatedly told the jurors that Lloyd had insulation on his jeans from the attic, which was above a room where at times he kept nearly a dozen dogs. He put more importance on his defecating pit bulls than the toddler in his care, Parker said.
To Lloyd, the girl was an annoyance, partly because she wet herself, Parker contended.
When it was the defense's turn to speak to the jury Monday, Lloyd's court-appointed lawyer, Alice Osburn, tried to pick at the prosecution's case.
"We don't have any physical evidence that ties Mr. Lloyd to the murder," Osburn said. "He doesn't confess to killing her."
Osburn contended that Loudermilk — who testified she saw Lloyd beat and choke Chavira — wasn't a credible witness because she said she didn't know much or was inconsistent in what she said.
Osburn questioned whether Loudermilk was scared of Lloyd, adding that Loudermilk had moved in with him.
And Loudermilk did nothing to help Chavira, Osburn said.
"Is she really scared, or is she involved some way?"
Loudermilk waited a long time before saying where Chavira could be found, Osburn said.
A coroner's examination found no sign of choking, Osburn said.
Osburn conceded that Lloyd spanked the girl and used a belt, then added: "But does that constitute a cruel beating?" The girl didn't die from a spanking, Osburn said.
"She died ... but is Temeika involved in this more than she's saying?"