A 20-year-old woman and her live-in boyfriend were convicted Wednesday of second-degree murder, child abuse and conspiracy in connection with the death of the woman's 3-year-old daughter last year.
Simona Demery and Jeffery Jones, 25, were charged with 10 felony counts after Alicia Versluis was reported missing in May 2000. On the witness stand in Pomona Superior Court, both defendants admitted that the child died but denied responsibility for her death. The girl's body has not been found.
Jones was acquitted of the most serious charge of assault on a child resulting in death, but was convicted on the remaining nine counts. Demery was convicted of all 10. Each faces 30 years to life in prison and will be sentenced Aug. 21.
"I suppose [the jurors] felt Jeffery was just a tad less involved than Simona," Demery's public defender, Michael Coghlan, said.
Demery was clutching a Bible and smiling as she entered court Wednesday afternoon. But as the verdicts were announced she put her head in her hands and her eyes filled with tears.
Jones stared down, his hands clasped together.
Both were convicted of abusing, battering and endangering Alicia's twin sister, Ebony, who is now living with relatives.
"I am very relieved that Alicia and Ebony are no longer in that horribly abusive home," Los Angeles County Deputy Dist. Atty. Kathleen Cady said.
"Obviously, it's a tragedy," Coghlan said. "It's a tragedy the child died. It's a tragedy they lived the way they did. It's a tragedy that Simona came from the dysfunctional home she came from."
Jones' court-appointed lawyer, David Daugherty, said in his closing statement that the jury should take the defendants' background into consideration when rendering a verdict.
"She became a mother when she was 16 years of age," he said. "She was ignorant of how to raise a child. It probably is not surprising that something like this happened."
Cady presented evidence that the twins were whipped with a leather strap and forced to stand in a corner for hours and were badly malnourished.