Deadly Child Abuse Trial Continues Thursday - NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Worth

Deadly Child Abuse Trial Continues Thursday

Leiliana Wright, 4, died after being beaten and bound in March 2016

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    Deadly Child Abuse Trial Continues Thursday

    Testimony continued Thursday in a deadly child abuse case that exposed the failings of the Texas child protective services system. (Published Thursday, Oct. 11, 2018)

    Testimony will continue Friday in a deadly child abuse case that exposed the failings of the Texas child protective services system.

    Leiliana Wright, 4, spent her last day on Earth beaten and bound in a closet at her Grand Prairie home in March 2016, according to the testimony of her mother, Jeri Quezada, who has already pleaded guilty to her role in the incident. Wright died as a result of blunt force injuries to her head and stomach.

    Grand Prairie police sergeant Brad Makovy was called to testify on Thursday.

    Makovy was a child abuse detective who investigated the case in 2016.

    Makovy was present for the autopsy conducted on the child and was asked to describe the body.

    "It was the worst thing I've ever seen inflicted on a child," he said on the stand.

    Quezada testified Wednesday against her former boyfriend, Charles Wayne Phifer, 36, who is charged with capital murder and, if convicted, faces the possibility of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

    According to police, both mother and boyfriend were doing heroin and claimed the Lilly fell in the shower.

    Quezada later told police Phifer was in the bathroom with the girl shortly before she fell.

    "His voice coming from the bathroom saying something along the lines 'get you some of this' and then she's [Quezada] waking out of the bedroom, she sees Charles [Phifer] walking out of the bathroom and then she hears what she describes as a little tiny whiny, whimpering cry coming from the bathroom and it was not long after that that Leiliana had fallen in the shower," said Makovy recalling Quezada's claim to police.

    The prosecution seeks to prove Lilly was beaten and tortured with a belt and bamboo switch by her mother's boyfriend.

    Phifer is accused of tying the 4-year-old up in a closet in such a way she could not sit down.

    He later allegedly lifted Lilly by the throat and throwing her into the closet with such force it left an indention all because she would not eat.

    The girl had reportedly been sick and vomiting days before her death.

    Police testified her mother left the girl in her boyfriend's care because she was growing frustrated with Lilly and needed 'a break.'

    Phifer's defense attorney pressed Quezada about her abuse against her daughter during the cross examination.

    Steve Miller asked Quezada about information she provided to police in the days after her daughter's death.

    "Do you remember in that interview telling detectives that you would kick your child as discipline and that you've done that somewhere between five and seven times," asked Miller.

    "I don't remember," Quezada responded.

    "You're not denying it," argued Miller.

    "I don't remember what I said," she replied.

    "Did you ever kick your child," he asked.

    "If I did it was playingly in her butt, yes," she responded.

    In another exchange, Miller pressed Quezada about her use of a bamboo stick on the little girl.

    "Is that where you first admitted that you hit Lilly with a bamboo switch," Miller asked Quezada about a police interview.

    "I don’t remember," she said.

    "And that you did so because she wouldn’t eat. This was on the days of Friday and Saturday," he responded.

    "I don’t know if I said it in that interview or not," she said.

    "But you did admit that," he pressed.

    "Yes, sir,” she said.

    Months prior to Leiliana Wright’s death, her grandmother reported her concern that the child was being abused to the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. The report included a photograph of Wright with a black eye.

    In February 2016 a caseworker went to the home and found Leiliana Wright and her younger brother to be living with Quezada, a convicted felon who had a prior history of child abuse that was so concerning she had previously lost custody of her three older children. But the caseworker did not do a background check on the mother, and allowed the children to remain in her custody.

    Following Wright’s death, that caseworker and a supervisor were fired, and an investigator on her case resigned their position.

    Texas has led the nation in the number of children who have died as a result of child abuse for each of the past seven years, according to the United States Department of Health and Human Services.

    The capital murder trial continues on Friday when the medical examiner is expected to testify.

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