MIAMI- A Missouri man was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder in the fatal beating of his former girlfriend’s 15-month-old daughter.
Travis Steed, 32, of Seligman, Mo, was convicted of killing McKenna Jayda White. The Ottawa County jury deliberated around five hours before coming back with the verdict and recommending a life sentence.
District Attorney Eddie Wyant said Steed will be up for parole in 40 years.
“This was a tough case,” Wyant said. “There were no fingerprints, no DNA – I’m just glad he’s been held accountable for this murder.”
Wyant said the jurors methodically reviewed the evidence, including listening to a 40 minute interview between Steed and investigators twice.
Prosecutors argue that Steed delivered fatal blows to the child. But the defense has said that there is no physical evidence to link Steed to the crime.
The toddler was found dead in her playpen at a Miami motel were Steed and White were staying in February 2006. A medical examiner said McKenna’s death was likely the result of blunt head trauma. The toddler also suffered a five-and-a-half-inch skull fracture from the front of her skull to her spinal cord
This was Steed’s second trial. Earlier a mistrial was called after the jury deadlocked 9-3 to convict Steed.
The child's mother, Catherine White, 30, of Goodman, Mo., pleaded guilty to enabling child abuse and received a 25-year sentence with all but 10 months suspended.
At the time of her plea, Wyant said the charge was amended from child neglect because of a recent court decision changing the wording of a state statute.
White testified both at trials she used methamphetamine before leaving McKenna with Steed while she went to Missouri to pick up her other children.
White testified she should have never left her daughter with Steed, Wyant said.