Furious judge tells child killer he should 'die in a locked closet' for beating his girlfriend's four-year-old daughter to death

Leiliana Wright was savagely beaten and "strung up" with multiple belts in a closet in the home she stayed with her mother in Grand Prairie as a punishment


                            Furious judge tells child killer he should 'die in a locked closet' for beating his girlfriend's four-year-old daughter to death

A judge in Texas told a convicted child killer that "he should die in a locked closet" after his girlfriend's four-year-old daughter died from horrific injuries after she was viciously beaten. Leiliana Wright was savagely beaten and "strung up" with multiple belts in a closet in the home she stayed with her mother in Grand Prairie as a punishment. She died in March 2016, the same day as her so-called punishment.

The toddler died after she received blunt force injuries to her head and her stomach. 36-year-old Charles Wayne Phifer received an automatic life sentence on October 17 without any possibility of parole for the murder of the child. State District Judge Robert Burns told Phifer: "Hanging a little girl in a locked closet was savage. You should die in a locked closet. I think this is the worst case I've ever seen."

According to Dallas News, the jurors in the court deliberated for approximately four hours before they came back and delivered the verdict as guilty. Horrific photos that were released last week showed the levels of abuse that the toddler suffered from before she was beaten to death. The images were so horrific that Grand Prairie Police Sgt. Brad Makovy said: "it was the worst thing I've ever seen inflicted on a child" when he gave his testimony at the capital murder trial on October 11.

Mugshot of Charles Wayne Phifer (Source: Dallas County Jail)
Mugshot of Charles Wayne Phifer (Source: Dallas County Jail)

Pictures of the child show her with a black eye, a bruise on her cheek close to her jaw, and some of the shocking photos also reveal that she can barely open her eyes because they are puffy from abuse. One investigator who took photos of the toddler's body said that nurses and police officers had to stand outside the hospital room and weep because "she was severely beaten."

In the testimony, Sgt. Makovy revealed how he interviewed 33-year-old Jeri Quezada, the toddler's mother, who was nervous to talk. She faces 50 years behind bars for the role she played in Leiliana's death. The mother is due to be formally sentenced by Judge Burns on October 17. She testified against her former boyfriend, Phifer, last week. In her testimony, Quezada told the court that Phifer had tied up her daughter in such a way inside that closet that the toddler couldn't sit down. 

She also said that the man lifted the child by the throat and threw her into the closet with so much force that it left an indentation. According to NBCDFW, the mother also said that he did this because the toddler had refused to eat. Leiliana was also said to be sick and vomiting only days before she died. The mother said that her daughter's hands had been tied behind her back using an electrical wire and that something had been tied around her stomach when she was strung up in the dark closet.



 

Pictures of the crime scene that were shown at the trial revealed a bamboo stick that Phifer had used to beat the toddler to death with. Her tiny jeans were also displayed to the jury who saw it tangled up in three belts. Quezada also told the police that she left her daughter in Phifer's care because she had been frustrated and needed "a break." She was out to dinner that night with her mother while Phifer stayed at home with the toddler.

Quezada also told the police that she went back home after the dinner and used heroin with Phifer before asking him where Leiliana was. The man responded by saying that she was hung in the closet. Phifer claimed that the child had fallen in the shower and that's why he put her there. The mother, who has a history of child abuse, allegedly told the authorities previously that she kicked and slapped her daughter as punishment at times.

When she was asked about it in the court last week, she said that she cannot recall ever telling the police such things. Leiliana's grandmother is the one who first brought the case to the attention of Child Protective Services after she sent them a picture of the toddler with a black eye. A caseworker went to the home in February 2016 and found the toddler and her younger brother with Quezada. The caseworker let the children remain with their mother.



 

The worker did not do a background check on the mother which would have revealed that Quezada is a convicted felon who has a history of child abuse that has previously seen her losing custody of her three older children. Adeline Carr, Quezada's mother, testified in court last week and said that she lived with her daughter for a couple of months before her granddaughter's death. She described that Leiliana was a skittish child. She said: "At first, she was very frightened of every strange noise or loud noise."



The devastated grandmother described Leiliana as a quiet and shy child who loves to stare at things rather than to speak up and ask for them. Carr said that her daughter would tell the toddler that it was ok to come out of her bedroom after she woke up every morning, but the child would refuse to leave unless she was ordered to do so. Quezada pleaded guilty to felony injury to a child back in July 2017. As a part of her plea deal, she is testifying against Phifer.