Jury convicts father in murder of 4-year-old son

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NEW BOSTON, Texas: A local father was found guilty of felony murder Thursday in the beating death of his 4-year-old son.

The jury of nine women and three men who found Benearl Jermane Lewis Jr., 25, guilty is expected to return to court Friday morning to decide his punishment. Benearl Lewis faces five to 99 years or life in prison in the death of D’Money Lewis.

The jury had the option of convicting Benearl Lewis of capital murder, felony murder or injury to a child.

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Benearl Lewis’ attorney, Derric McFarland of Texarkana, maintained throughout the trial that D’Money’s injuries were the result of an accidental fall from a chest freezer in the family’s home on Redwater Street in Wake Village, Texas. Assistant District Attorneys Lauren Richards and Kelley Crisp argued that scenario doesn’t explain the many severe injuries the boy suffered March 6.

Experts including a pediatrician specializing in child abuse, an emergency room physician and a medical examiner all testified that D’Money’s catastrophic brain injury could not have been caused by a fall from a freezer which stood 34 inches off the floor. In addition to head trauma that caused his brain to herniate down his spinal column, D’Money suffered internal bleeding around his liver and kidney. His legs showed strap marks presumably caused by belts and bruising was evident on the boy’s chest and back.

The experts testified that D’Money was likely struck or thrown against objects more than once.

D’Money’s mother, Khadijah Wright, 26, has been charged with injury to a child by omission in connection with the death and is scheduled to face a jury next month. She faces five to 99 years or life if convicted.

Witnesses testified that Wright left work several hours early and without punching out at about 2 p.m. March 6. Wake Village Interim Police Chief Todd Aultman testified that phone records show Benearl Lewis texted her asking for help and that Wright left work after speaking briefly with him on the phone.

More than two hours later, Benearl Lewis and Wright pulled their SUV up next to a patrol car working a car accident on 7th Street in Texarkana, Texas. After learning the couple was on their way to the hospital with an unconscious child who wasn’t breathing, Officer Brent Hobbs called back the fire and ambulance personnel who’d just left the crash scene.

The emergency room doctor, Mark McCrary, who treated D’Money at Wadley Hospital testified Wednesday that he immediately suspected child abuse. D’Money’s heart was restarted but he required life support to breathe. Scans of his brain revealed an injury from which he would never recover.

Pediatrician Karen Farst, who specializes in child abuse and works at Arkansas Children’s Hospital in Little Rock, said the story about D’Money falling from a freezer didn’t account for the severity of his brain injury or the internal bleeding, strap marks and overall bruising. Farst testified that she believes D’Money’s injuries were caused by child abuse. Medical Examiner Candice Shoppe testified Wednesday that she too believes D’Money died at the hands of another.

Friday morning the jury is expected to hear testimony Friday morning to help them determine what sentence Benearl Lewis should receive.

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