AUSTIN, Texas — A 12-year-old girl should spend up to 20 years in state custody for beating a toddler to death in her grandparents' illegal day-care center, a jury decided Friday.
She was 11 when she beat 2 1/2-year-old Jayla Belton to death on May 24, striking her on the head and body more than a dozen times and rupturing her liver with the fatal blow.
The girl was convicted Wednesday of criminally negligent homicide and intentional injury to a child. The six-man, six-woman jury found her innocent of the more serious charges of murder and manslaughter.
The 12-year-old, whose name has been withheld because she is a minor, will likely be held at a Texas Youth Commission center for children and youths with emotional problems.
She could remain in Youth Commission custody until she is 21, attending classes and undergoing group therapy. However, if a judge approves, she could be transferred to prison after turning 16.
The girl, who would have started the seventh grade this fall, showed little reaction to her sentence, hugging her grandmother before she was led away.
"I believe in the innocence of this child," said defense attorney Kameron Johnson, who is appealing the case.
But Travis County prosecutor Gary Cobb said the girl, who was in special-education classes because of behavioral and emotional problems, needs rehabilitation.