OGDEN, Utah — A jury found a northern Utah woman guilty of child abuse homicide Tuesday following a two-week trial in which prosecutors said she killed a baby boy at her in-home daycare by slamming his head on a changing table in frustration.
The verdict against Tisha Morley, 36, was read in court about five hours after the jurors began deliberations.
Parents Alesha and Christopher Penland, whose 8-month-old son, Lincoln, was killed in 2014, cried and hugged family and friends. Morley’s supporters cried as she was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, the Standard-Examiner newspaper reported (http://bit.ly/2roC9gy).
Outside court, the Penlands thanked their supporters and said they were glad the trial was over. They also hugged Morley’s family, including her husband.
“They are losing someone, too,” Christopher Penland said.
Morley faces up to life in prison when she is sentenced on June 20.
Lincoln died of blunt force trauma to the head, with his death ruled a homicide, Dr. Pamela Ulmer of the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner testified during the trial in Ogden.
Morley’s attorney, Logan Bushell, offered an alternate explanation that the baby’s 3-year-old brother caused the injuries that led to his 2014 death. Prosecutors scoffed at the theory, telling jurors that it didn’t make sense that a toddler could cause the injuries that killed baby Lincoln.
Morley acknowledged leaving the boy alone and must live with that the rest of her life, Bushell said. He asked the jury to find her guilty of the lesser charge of negligent homicide.
“There are no winners in this case,” Bushell said in a statement after the verdict. “It is an utter tragedy for all involved. While we fully respect the jury and their difficult decision, we disagree with their verdict.”
Morley did not testify during the two-week trial.
Bushell based his alternate explanation on an interview that a 3-year-old girl from the daycare gave to investigators in which she said she saw Lincoln’s older brother kick and step on him and hit him with a swinging door.
“That little girl saw something. Children come to conclusions that are observationally accurate, but not always 100 percent factually correct,” Bushell said.
Information from: Standard-Examiner, http://www.standard.net