Prosecutors filed charges Wednesday that could mean life in prison for a Santa Ana man accused of fatally beating his 5-year-old stepdaughter.
Bruce Alan Morton, 28, was charged with assault on a child under 8 years old causing death, Deputy Dist. Atty. Elizabeth Henderson said. If convicted, he would face 25 years to life in prison, she said, a more severe penalty than second-degree murder, which has a maximum term of 15 years to life.
Prosecutors still may file a murder charge, depending on autopsy results and an ongoing police investigation.
"There has to be proven malice," Henderson said. "It's not a murder charge yet. We have to determine if there has been abuse over a period of time to determine intent."
The girl, Katya Jensen, died Tuesday after doctors at UCI Medical Center in Orange removed her from life support systems, officials said.