YUKON, Okla. (KFOR) – A Yukon man will likely spend the rest of life in jail for killing his former girlfriend’s 10-month-old baby. After just three days, a jury found Joshua Jennings guilty of first-degree murder.
“Ultimately, it was just a tough case to try,” said Michael Amend, Jennings’ lawyer. “He’s remorseful for what happened. What really happened, I can’t say, but he does have some remorse there.”
Back in September 2020, Jennings was babysitting Paisley Cearly while her mother, Jennings’ girlfriend, was at work, according to court records. At one point, the infant allegedly stopped breathing and Cearly was rushed to an emergency clinic.
“When [police] arrived, they found a child there in distress,” said Mgst. Gary Knight of the Oklahoma City Police Department back when the incident initially happened. “The child had significant injuries.”
Baby Paisley died at a hospital the next morning.
“[Jennings] says that [Cearly] got caught in a blanket that was wrapped around her and that jerked his arm back and he said that she ultimately fell, landing flat on the floor,” said Amend. “He told me it was an accident.”
However, court records detail that a doctor reported “the injuries to the victim were consistent with non-accidental trauma.” A child abuse doctor also reviewed Cearly and “stated the injurues were not consistent with the account provided by the defendant,” according to the court documents.
Doctors found Cearly had evidence of older injuries as well, which Jennings’ defense argued came from someone else.
“My client was only in this child’s life for about six weeks,” said Amend. “So, she had what we believe to be injuries that predated her head injuries…. Ultimately, when you have a defendant who puts himself at the scene of the crime, tells a lead detective that he was the only one there, and then you have multiple head injuries that can’t account for an accidental fall, it’s just a tough case and tough facts to overcome.”
Meanwhile, the prosecutors for the case weighed in with the following statements:
“There are still many unanswered questions about the kind of abusive treatment she was subject to by Jennings, but the hard evidence showed that there were multiple significant injuries that could not have been caused by one, or even two or three, impacts. Even after multiple opportunities to tell the police what really happened to her, Jennings never did tell the whole story,” said Austin Murrey, one of the prosecutors on the case.
“Hopefully, this verdict provides some amount of closure to Paisley’s family. This case would not have been possible without the solid teamwork between the child advocacy detectives at Oklahoma City PD and the child abuse doctors who worked tirelessly on this case,” said John Salmon, the other prosecutor on the case.
The jury also recommended Jennings be sentenced to serve life without parole in prison.
Formal sentencing is set for Nov. 9 at 1:30 p.m.