A Texas man was convicted Monday for fatally beating his girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter and leaving her in a locked closet to die.
The Dallas Morning News reported that the victim’s mother, Jeri Quezada, 33, testified that Charles Wayne Phifer, 36, tied Leiliana Wright’s arms behind her back and strung her up in a closet. Prosecutors said both Quezada and Phifer were culpable for the girl’s death but argued that Phifer was alone with the child for hours the day she was killed.
Phifer was found guilty of capital murder; a verdict that comes with an automatic life sentence. He isn’t eligible for parole.
According to KXAS, the pair admitted to being heroin addicts and using drugs the day the little girl was murdered in March 2016.
“What you did was unfathomable, inhuman and savage,” Judge Robert Burns said while handing down the verdict on Monday.
“Life in prison seems insufficient…hanging a little girl in a closet is savage…you should die in a locked closet.”
The Dallas County Medical Examiner determined Wright died of blunt force trauma to the abdomen and head. KTVT reported that Wright was kicked so hard that her abdomen wall collided with her spine.
The little girl reportedly was covered in bruises—and had 30 bruises on her back from various whippings. Defense attorneys, who argued that the mother caused Wright’s death, presented evidence suggesting that Wright was abused at least a month before her death, according to The Morning News.
Months before her death, Wright’s paternal grandparents provided evidence to CPS indicated that the 4-year-old was being abused months before her death. According to the newspaper, Quezada was previously sentenced to probation for striking her stepson.
Quezada—who has four other children—did admit to striking her daughter’s legs with a bamboo switch. She will spend 50 years behind bars after agreeing to plead guilty to felony injury to a child. The newspaper reported that her surviving children are living with relatives.
“I don’t think life in prison is worth it. I think he should have the death penalty,” said Brian Maker, the slain girl’s father said after sentencing, according to KTVT. “I’m not getting my daughter back. I won’t ever get to walk my daughter down the aisle.”
[Featured image: Leiliana Wright/KDFW video screengrab]