A Georgia man initially facing a felony child abuse charge is now facing a murder charge after prosecutors successfully argued that he failed to help his toddler girl, allegedly beaten to death by her mother. A Coweta County judge upgraded the charges on Friday.
NBC’s 11Alive reports that 28-year-old Daniel “DJ” Lenwood Lee will now face murder charges along with his wife and the child’s mother, Elizabeth Lynn Lee, 29. According to authorities, the couple’s six children were previously taken from them for methamphetamine use. Last year, however, they regained custody of the children after the moved out of their van, completed a court order, and established residency at a Sequoia home.
Court documents indicate on November 4, Daniel Lee called 911 and claimed they woke up to find their toddler girl, Aleigha, unresponsive. First responders rushed Aleigha to the hospital, where she pronounced dead. While the couple said the little girl died accidentally, they failed to provide any “medical or accidental plausible explanation” that would back up their statements.
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“We woke up and she’s barely breathing,” Daniel Lee said during the 911 call. “She’s like really white. Please hurry!”
Further, investigators said Aleigha had numerous signs of “non-accidental trauma” on her body, including a lacerated liver, a swollen brain, blunt force trauma to her face, dehydration, bruises, ligature marks on her neck, internal vaginal lacerations, and severe skin burns. According to a Coweta County warrant, the toddler endured “excessive physical and mental pain” before her death. Examiners noted she had signs of abuse “from her head to her toes.”
Elizabeth Lee later tried to explain that the toddler burned herself with a hair straightener, and since they didn’t have health insurance, they didn’t seek medical help. She also reportedly claimed she was scared authorities would take her children away again. Investigators said the injuries, which were so severe the child lost use of her right leg after being burned, could not have happened accidentally.
“It was very apparent that (the child) endured different injuries from her head to her toes. Her exposed body revealed bruises in different shapes, sizes and stages beginning from her head to her face, ribs, back, buttocks, arms, legs, feet and toes,” the warrant read.
Elizabeth Lee also claimed one of her other children had bitten the toddler, but had no explanation for the excessive bruising all over Aleigha’s body. In another interview, the mother said the toddler fell off the toilet and hit her head, and also fell off of a hope chest, which caused the bruising.
Investigators stated Elizabeth Lee injured the child to the point of death, while her husband helped cover it up and failed to seek help, according to AJC. Prosecutors announced last month that they intended to argue for upgraded charges against Daniel Lee, which a judge ultimately approved.
The couple’s five other children are now in protective custody.
Elizabeth Lee is facing first-degree murder and aggravated battery charges, while Daniel Lee has been charged with second-degree murder and second degree child cruelty. Both remain behind bars without bond.
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[Feature Photo: Aleigha Lee/Handout]