A Mississippi woman was sentenced to life in prison this week, in connection with the 2017 death of her stepdaughter, 1-year-old Jurayah Smith.
After five days of testimony, jurors in Claiborne County, Mississippi, returned a guilty verdict for T’Kia Bevily, 28. Bevily was convicted of capital murder, the Clarion-Ledger reports.
According to court testimony, investigators said Jurayah was found dead in a crib at her father, Morris Bevily’s, house on October 22, 2017. An autopsy report stated that the baby had numerous blunt force trauma injuries to her head; her death was labeled a homicide.
Claiborne County’s District Attorney Daniella Shorter said that Jurayah’s injuries happened while the baby was in the care of her stepmother and father. Both T’Kia and Morris Bevily turned themselves in, in 2019.
Jurayah’s mother, Dedreuna Smith, recalled last year how Morris Bevily called her on the day Juryaha passed away and asked her to come over and check on the baby. When Dedreuna arrived, Morris Bevily led her to a room where Jurayah was lying lifeless in a crib.
Smith said that Bevily never mentioned the baby had died. She was shocked at Jurayah’s condition and called family members, who, in turn, called 911.
“She was on her back and mouth was closed and her eyes was closed,” Smith said. “Her lips were kind of like a greenish color. You could tell she had been dead for a long time and she was cold.”
Previous video on the case
After the verdict, Smith announced she felt relieved and hoped to start her healing process. T’Kia Bevily’s mother, however, along with a Facebook dedicated to helping T’Kia, claimed that she was wrongfully convicted.
THERE WAS NO EVIDENCE! THE CASE WAS PURELY CIRCUMSTANTIAL! PROSECUTION HAD TO CREATE A SCENARIO OF WHAT HAPPENED! PROSECUTION HAD TO CREATE A MOTIVE!,” T’Kias’s mother, Audrey Smith Gray, posted on Facebook.
“To hear my baby cry out loud! While they sat there smugly and most cheered while my baby was convicted of a crime she didn’t commit!”
When questioned by investigators, T’Kia Bevily said she had no idea what happened to Jurayah and has maintained her innocence since the child’s death.
Claiborne County Sheriff Frank Davis previously said numerous people cared for Jurayah during the days leading up to her death. Investigators questioned each person and pieced together a timeline.
Shorter declined to seek the death penalty against T’Kia Bevily.
Morris Bevily, who’s also charged with murder, was scheduled to stand trial this week, but it has been pushed back.
Check back for updates.
For the latest true crime and justice news, subscribe to the ‘Crime Stories with Nancy Grace’ podcast. Here is a related episode.
[Featured Photo: Jurayah Smith & T’Kia Bevily/Facebook]