Crime & Courts

Sedgwick County jury acquits man of murder in toddler’s death

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A man who was on trial in the death of his live-in girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter last year has been acquitted of murder.

A Sedgwick County jury on Monday found Sly Maples, 34, not guilty of first-degree felony murder but convicted him of child abuse in the Jan. 21, 2015, death of Avry Darnell, said Dan Dillon, spokesman for the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s Office. Maples is scheduled for sentencing on the charge at 8:45 a.m. April 21 before District Judge David Kaufman, he said.

A child abuse conviction carries a possible sentence of 31 to 136 months in prison under Kansas sentencing guidelines.

Authorities have said Maples and Avry’s mother took the toddler to Via Christi Hospital St. Francis on Jan. 20 after she fell unconscious while playing with Maples at Linwood Park, 1901 S. Kansas. Maples claimed the girl struck her head on a playground slide but hospital staff determined her injuries – current and prior brain bleeds and bruising around her neck – were not consistent with the story. Her mother was inside the park’s library when the girl became unresponsive, authorities have said.

She was removed from life support the following day.

A coroner determined Avry died of blunt force trauma to her head; she also showed signs of having been strangled, according to her autopsy report. Her death was ruled a homicide, and Maples was charged with murder and child abuse.

The girl and her mother had moved to Wichita from Liberal the weekend before her death. Her mother and Maples had been dating for about three months at the time, authorities have said.

The jury’s verdict came late Monday afternoon following a six-day trial, according to Dillon and court records.

Amy Renee Leiker: 316-268-6644, @amyreneeleiker