Finally, justice for Ella Grayce! Killer gets life for molesting and killing 21-month-old baby girl
Dustin Drew Putnal molested and killed 21-month-old Ella Grayce Pointer. She took her last breathe on Oct. 30, 2016
A Georgia man was sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole after he confessed to molesting and killing his girlfriend’s toddler daughter. Dustin Drew Putnal, 29, pleaded guilty to the crime he committed two years ago.
Authorities said Dustin beat and assaulted 21-month-old Ella Grayce Pointer after the toddler was left in his care by her mother. Polk County police said Dustin had sexually assaulted Ella that resulted in severe head trauma.
When Polk County Police and EMS personnel were dispatched to Dustin's apartment on October 28, they found that the toddler was unresponsive and not breathing. Ella was rushed to Polk Medical Center in critical condition and then flown to Egleston. She later died in a hospital October 30, 2016, two days after the incident.
The case received a lot of attention, and "JusticeforEllaGrayce" became a popular hashtag on social media her family and the community waited to hear the verdict of her case. “We felt like this was an appropriate resolution,” Dustin's attorney told Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Mr. Putnal was remorseful and was willing to accept his punishment.”
Though Dustin did not go to trial, earlier this year, Georgia’s High Court weighed in on an appeal on analyzing Dustin's mental health. In June 2017, Dustin's attorney requested that he be evaluated by two mental health experts. This request was made in “ex parte” motions.
This meant that the prosecutors would not be notified and they could go on with their planned defense ahead of the trial. While the judge signed the motions, it was made public instead of sealing them. Georgia's high Court stated that a judge should not have allowed prosecutors to learn that Dustin's attorneys wanted him evaluated by mental health experts.
However, prosecutors stated that they had expected Dustin’s mental health would have been a defense at his trial. Despite this, they ruled that the judge made a mistake. On the other hand, the state Supreme Court wrote in its ruling that it was impossible to predict if the judge’s actions could affect the outcome of the case.
As reported by Fox News, District Attorney Jack Browning said the resolution of Dustin's case was done with the approval and blessing of Ella Grayce's family. He also added that the case had been a nightmare for the entire family. "Ella's family has made clear that they approve of this sentence because it brings certain and definite closure, without the worry of appeal-after-appeal-after-appeal over the next unknown number of years,” he said.
He further added, "(N)ow they can live their lives without the constant fear that Putnal's conviction might be overturned for some reason and he is allowed to go free.” Ella's grandmother Dorothy Garner also reminisced about the loss of her granddaughter. "Ella Grayce was so precious, such a beautiful child. She was always laughing and giggling and playing," she said.