Prosecutors have dismissed a capital murder charge against a Texas father who had been accused of killing his 2-year-old daughter after the man’s son admitted to causing the girl’s death, the Star-Telegram reports.
Anthony Sanders, 33, had been charged with suffocating his daughter, Ellie Sanders, while at the family’s home in December 2015.
Police had initially suspected that Sanders put a hand over the girl’s mouth after he became angry she interrupted him while he was playing video games.
Sanders consistently denied the allegation. He told authorities that he learned his daughter was not breathing when his son reported that the girl was sleeping and not waking up.
He was later arrested in April 2016 and has been in jail since.
But on Sept. 13, two days after a trial was scheduled to begin in the case, prosecutors withdrew the murder charge and Sanders was released from custody.
According to the newspaper, the case began to unravel in late August when the girl’s mother, Cassie Wright, told authorities that her son, who is now 7, said he killed his sister.
The boy admitted that he struck the girl with the pillow and that it was too heavy to get off her, according to court records obtained by the Star-Telegram.
“Cassie Wright said that this was the first time [her son] had told her anything like this,” a court document states. “She does not believe [her son] and does not think that what he is telling her makes sense.”
Authorities subsequently interviewed the boy at his home, where he cried when he recalled what happened to his sister. He said the two had been playing with a “heavy” pillow and that he rolled it onto the girl’s legs. He said he then put it on her face by accident.
“He was unable to move the pillow. He said that the pillow was a rectangle and was heavy. It had something zipped inside which made the pillow heavy,” court records state.
The boy said he notified Sanders about what happened, at which point Sanders removed the heavy item from the pillow.
The boy told authorities that he explained what happened to his mother a year or two ago. He said he didn’t tell anyone else because he was “afraid that he would get in trouble.”
Investigators met with the county’s medical examiner, who said it’s possible that a 5-year-old would have enough strength to overpower a 2-year-old, according to court records.
The medical examiner added that he couldn’t disprove the possibility that the boy smothered the girl with the pillow.
Sanders was “elated” that the charge was dropped, according to his lawyer, Tim Moore. It’s not likely that Sanders will face any additional charges tied to other injuries the girl reportedly had when she died, Moore said.
Investigators had observed bruises all over the girl’s body and around her eyes, which are often referred to as “raccoon eyes,” in addition to blood behind an ear and apparent bite marks from an adult on her back.
“That’s obviously up to the district attorney’s office,” Moore said. “It’s my understanding that it’s over; there will be no more charges coming out of it.”