Capital murder charge formally filed against stepmother in 3-year-old’s death

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Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Potter Barrett formally signed off Tuesday on charges of capital murder and domestic battery for a stepmother accused of beating her husband’s 3-year-old daughter to death and physically abusing her 2-year-old brother.

McKenna Faith Belcher, 26, is accused of capital murder in the April 2 death of McKinley Cawley. She faces the death penalty or life without parole if found guilty.

Belcher is accused as well of causing physical injuries to McKinley’s little brother. An infant daughter, born Jan. 30 to Belcher and the children’s father, Everette Cawley, 23, was removed from the home April 2. While no allegations of abuse surrounding the baby were made, investigators noted she was suffering from a yeast infection on her neck which was bleeding.

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Cawley was charged Tuesday with two counts of permitting the abuse of a minor involving McKinley and his son. Cawley is accused of failing to intervene on his children’s behalves when Belcher abused them.

McKinley was unconscious when she was carried into the St. Michael’s Hospital emergency room at about 4 a.m. April 2 by her father. Hospital staff suspected abuse immediately and contacted police.

McKinley was airlifted to Children’s Hospital in Little Rock and died later in the day April 2 of severe blunt force trauma injuries. According to a probable cause affidavit, McKinley suffered damage to organs and her brain. Her head had been shaved in an alleged attempt to hide that chunks of her hair/scalp had been ripped out. Investigators collected a pair of steel-toe boots and a wooden bed slat from the couple’s Texarkana, Ark., duplex during a search.

Cawley allegedly tried to blame the abuse on his former wife but later admitted it was Belcher who abused the children.

Belcher is being held in the Miller County jail without bail. Cawley’s bail is set at $1 million. Both are set to appear for arraignment later this month.

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