Stepfather convicted in death of ‘Baby Grace’

He should have been fast tracked to the chair. This child was an innocent and now she will never make her footprint of this earth. These two people had no feeling or love for this preciouse little girl. They threw her away like yesterdays trash.

JUAN A. LOZANO, Associated Press Writer Juan A. Lozano, Associated Press Writer – 1 hr 33 mins ago
GALVESTON, Texas – A Southeast Texas man was convicted Friday of capital murder in the 2007 beating death of his 2-year-old stepdaughter whose battered body was found in a container floating in Galveston Bay.

Jurors deliberated for 4 1/2 hours before finding Royce Clyde Zeigler II guilty in the death of the child known as “Baby Grace.” He will receive an automatic life sentence because prosecutors did not seek the death penalty. Jurors also could have convicted Zeigler of a lesser charge of manslaughter.

Zeigler and his wife, Kimberly Trenor, the toddler’s mother, were accused of killing her during a discipline session that spun out of control. Trenor was convicted of capital murder in February and also received an automatic life sentence.

Investigators called the child “Baby Grace” until relatives in Ohio identified her as Riley Ann Sawyers.

Prosecutors said Zeigler and Trenor killed the toddler at their home in Spring, a suburb north of Houston, during a July 2007 discipline session intended to teach her proper manners. Authorities said Zeigler was upset the 2-year-old didn’t consistently use “please” and “thank you.”

Prosecutors said Trenor and Zeigler beat Riley with belts, dunked her head in a cold bath water and threw her onto a tile floor, fracturing her skull. An autopsy determined the child died of two skull fractures.

After Riley’s death, the couple stuffed her body in a plastic box and hid it for months in a storage shed at their home. Then they drove about 75 miles southeast to Galveston Bay, where they dumped the container and body in October 2007, according to authorities.

Riley’s remains were discovered by a fisherman on a small island in the bay.

During the trial, Ziegler’s attorneys told jurors their client was in another room when Riley died and there was no evidence he killed her.

But prosecutors said Zeigler lied repeatedly to investigators, giving them conflicting statements on the girl’s death. Prosecutors showed the Galveston County jury video of Zeigler admitting dumping the child’s body in the bay.

Riley’s identity was a mystery for weeks until her paternal grandmother in Ohio saw an artist’s sketch of the girl and told authorities in Texas she thought it was her granddaughter.

Trenor and Zeigler met playing an online video game and married in June 2007 after Trenor moved with her daughter from Mentor, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, to live with Zeigler in his home in Spring.

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