Man gets 46 years in death of 3-year-old daughter

Everette Cawley, 24, and his wife, McKenna Belcher, 27, appear in a Miller County courtroom April 5, 2019

A man who failed to protect his 3-year-old daughter from beatings by her stepmother was sentenced to 46 years in prison Tuesday.

Everette John Cawley, 26, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder and two counts of permitting the abuse of a minor involving his daughter, McKinley Cawley. McKinley died April 2, 2019, at a Little Rock hospital of traumatic head injuries, according to a probable cause affidavit.

Cawley’s wife, McKenna Faith Belcher, 30, is currently serving a life sentence. She pleaded guilty to first-degree murder in May 2021. Belcher used a wooden bed slat and other objects to beat the girl. When the child was carried into a Texarkana emergency room by Cawley early on the morning of April 2, 2019, she was unresponsive and her head had been shaved. Investigators believe the girl’s head was shaved to hide the fact that Belcher had ripped large chunks of hair from the child’s head.

Cawley was sentenced to 40 years for murder and six years on each of two counts of permitting the abuse of a minor. Cawley also failed to protect his son, one year younger than McKinley, from Belcher’s abuse. The two six-year sentences will run together but consecutive to the murder charge.

Cawley appeared Tuesday for a plea hearing before Circuit Judge Brent Haltom in Miller County. Cawley was represented by Texarkana attorney Jeff Harrelson. Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell prosecuted the cases against Cawley and Belcher.

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