DALLAS, Tex. – A Texas jury has convicted a 36-year-old man of capital murder in the beating death of his girlfriend’s 4-year-old daughter in a case the judge described as one of the worst instances of abuse he’s seen.
The guilty verdict Monday by the Dallas County jury brings with it an automatic life sentence for Charles Wayne Phifer.
Testimony during the trial included Phifer punishing Leiliana Wright by binding the girl’s hands behind her back and stringing her up in a closet. Leiliana, who was beaten with a bamboo switch and belts, died in March 2016 of blunt force trauma to the head and abdomen.
At one point, police said Phifer shoved the little girl against a piece of drywall in the closet.
Her body left an indentation in the wall.
Judge Robert Burns told Phifer that, “You should die in a locked closet.”
The child’s mother, 33-year-old Jeri Quezada, previously pleaded guilty to felony injury to a child.
She admitted to shooting heroin and then repeatedly hitting the little girl after the child drank her then 18-month-old brother’s juice.
She will be sentenced this week to 50 years in prison as part of a plea deal.