Butler County prosecutors on Friday disclosed that they have filed a new first-degree murder charge against a 31-year-old man in the killing of an 18-month-old El Dorado girl more than two years ago.
On Friday afternoon, Justin Edwards, 31, appeared in Butler County District Court to hear the charge, which involves an underlying alleged crime – child abuse of the victim, Jayla Haag. The child was the daughter of Edwards’ live-in girlfriend. During his first appearance, his relatives and Jayla’s relatives filled the courtroom benches.
Chief Judge David Ricke set Edwards’ bond at $500,000. Part of his consideration of the bond amount, Ricke said, is the seriousness of the charge and the possibility that Edwards could face spending the rest of his life in prison. That posed a considerable risk that Edwards might not appear in court if he were to be released, the judge said.
Jayla died in March 2012 after ending up at an El Dorado hospital with injuries across her head and body. Several of her teeth had been forcibly removed.
It is the second time that Edwards has been charged in the case. In September 2012, a judge dismissed a first-degree murder charge against Edwards because Jayla’s autopsy had not been completed at the time.
Butler County Attorney Darrin Devinney said then that a murder charge could be refiled after he received a completed autopsy report with a finding on a cause of death. A coroner ruled the 18-month-old’s death a homicide.
Along with “multiple contusions of the head, trunk, and extremities,” the autopsy report said, Jayla’s six lower teeth had been forcibly removed.
Edwards has been in prison on drug convictions and was recently transferred to Butler County. He was to be paroled to Wichita in the drug case.
Devinney said Friday that Edwards’ imprisonment allowed him to review the case and bring the new charge.
Alyssa Haag, Jayla’s mother, pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter in the girl’s death. Haag is in prison, with an earliest possible release on March 24, 2015, according to records.
Edwards faces an Oct. 1 preliminary hearing on the murder charge, to determine whether there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.
David Moses, Edwards’ court-appointed defense attorney, said one issue in the case is his client’s rights to a speedy trial.
Reach Tim Potter at 316-268-6684 or firstname.lastname@example.org.