Tarrant County

Mom, Boyfriend Arrested After Girl, 4, Beaten, Restrained Before Death: Police

Mother, boyfriend did drugs before beating, restraining girl several times March 13, police say

The grandmother of a 4-year old girl killed in Grand Prairie believes Child Protective Services could have prevented the death.

Leiliana Wright died March 13. Her mother and the woman's boyfriend have both been arrested, accused of felony injury to a child in connection with the death.

"I lost one of the most precious people that I've been so proud to have met," said Leiliana's paternal grandmother, Alisa Clakely.

In an arrest affidavit released Thursday, police allege the couple used heroin and repeatedly beat and restrained the girl before she stopped breathing, after which the child was transported to an area hospital where she was pronounced dead.

After the Tarrant County medical examiner ruled Leiliana died from homicidal violence, her mother, 30-year-old Jeri Quezada, was arrested March 25 on a charge of felony injury to a child. Quezada's boyfriend, identified by police as Charles Phifer, was arrested April 1 on the same charge.

"She was like my daughter," Clakely explained. "I feel probably the deepest sorrow you can imagine someone feeling."

For the first two years of Leiliana's life, Clakely said Quezada was in prison. Clakely's own son was not capable of caring for his daughter, so Clakely and her husband volunteered to help. But Quezada rejoined Leiliana's life about two years ago, according to Clakely, and that's when problems began for the family.

Clakely said she noticed her granddaughter had bruising when she would pick her up from Quezada's home. On several occasions, she said Quezada would skip scheduled  meetings Leiliana was supposed to have with her grandparents. Eventually, Clakely began calling Child Protective Services to report her concerns.

"I called CPS. I called the governor. I called whoever I could," she said. "I took pictures and sent them to CPS."

In response, Clakely said CPS case workers told her they would look into the issues. But then, nothing would happen.

"If we had done something sooner, I don't know," Clakely said. "I don't know."

According to CPS, Leiliana's case is being reviewed internally. A full report will be released in the next few weeks.

Quezada is being held on $500,000 bond while Phifer is being held on $1 million bond.

In the arrest affidavit, police said Quezada changed her story several times about what took place the day her daughter died before settling on a version that included she and her boyfriend shooting heroin in the morning and beating the child for drinking her sibling's juice.

She told police that she Phifer initially punished the child by hitting her with a belt and a bamboo stick. She said she later left the child alone with Phifer because she realized she couldn't take her out in public due to bruising on the girl's face.

"I started reading that affidavit, and I couldn't get through the third paragraph without setting it down," said Lyle Gensler, a spokesman for the Grand Prairie Police Department.

Quezada told police that later that afternoon, at about 5:30 p.m., she went home to have a nap and that Phifer called her to say Leiliana was making herself throw up, so he tied her up for about 10 minutes.

At about 9:30 p.m. Quezada arrived to pick up her daughter and learned she was tied up in the closet. Quezada then "allowed him [Phifer] to give her a shot of heroin since the child couldn't see her mother doing drugs," police said.

Quezada told police when the closet door was opened she saw that her daughter was tied up with her wrists behind her back -- and that she was restrained in such a way that prevented her from sitting down.

The child was eventually released from the closet, Quezada told police, and given half of a peanut butter sandwich. When Leiliana had trouble swallowing, Quezada began slapping her on the chest and smacking her in the head while ordering her to swallow the food.

"I've never seen such a crime of evil in my entire career," said Gensler. "The images were terrible, extremely explicit."

Quezada said Phifer then put on black gloves, forced the young girl's mouth open and forcefully poured Pedialyte into her mouth. Quezada said her daughter then stood next to her, looked down and said nothing before indicating she was going to throw up.

The girl ran for the bathroom, but threw up in the kitchen along the way. When she exited the bathroom, Quezada said Phifer grabbed her by the throat and lifted her off the ground with one hand. She said he then shoved her into a piece of drywall in the closet; police said this action left an indentation in the wall.

Quezada said Phifer cursed at the child and threw her into the closet before closing the door.

According to Quezada, her daughter was removed from the closet about 15 minutes later and was allowed to take a shower. She said she left the bathroom to get her daughter some pajamas and heard Phifer in the bathroom saying, "Get you some of this" before hearing her daughter fall in the shower.

Eventually the police were called and officers and EMS responders arrived to find Quezada performing CPR on her unresponsive daughter. EMS personnel reported Leiliana had visible bruising on her face. After EMS workers took over CPR efforts, Quezada stated the girl had fallen in the shower.

Leiliana was examined by the Tarrant County medical examiner, who ruled her cause of death a homicide as a result of blunt force trauma to the abdomen and head. The medical examiner also noted extensive bruising from head to toe and whip marks on the girl's back. The ME noted severe bruising to her buttock and the back of her thighs.

Grand Prairie police said no other arrests are anticipated and that the investigation is ongoing. They have not said, however, if any other charges are expected to be filed in the case.

It is not yet known who will be defending Phifer and Quezada.

Jeri Quezada Arrest Affidavit

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