Trial on hold for woman facing possible death penalty in 3-year-old’s murder

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Trial has been put on hold for a woman accused of beating her husband’s 3-year-old daughter to death last year.

McKenna Faith Belcher, 27, is facing a possible death sentence if found guilty of capital murder in the April 2, 2019, death of McKinley Cawley. The case was scheduled for jury selection at the Miller County courthouse Feb. 24 but Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson has canceled the setting to give the defense more time to prepare.

Belcher’s lawyer, Andrea Stokes of Little Rock, filed a motion in the case in January complaining that she has just recently received thousands of pages of documents and two videos which she must review, that some evidence remains untested and outstanding at the state crime lab and that she and her team have been unable to complete a full investigation into Belcher’s background.

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Johnson scheduled the case for a status hearing in March but did not set a date for jury selection.

Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Potter Barrett said previously that her office will seek the death penalty for Belcher. The only other punishment option for capital murder is life without parole. If found guilty of second-degree battery for injuries found on McKinley’s younger brother, Belcher faces three to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.

Everette Cawley, 24, McKinley’s father, is charged with accomplice to capital murder and permitting the abuse of a minor for allegedly doing nothing to stop Belcher’s abuse of his children from a prior relationship. If found guilty of accomplice to capital murder, Everette Cawley faces death or life without parole. Barrett has not announced whether the state will seek a death sentence for Everette Cawley.

Everette Cawley brought McKinley to a local emergency room at about 4:30 a.m. April 2, according to a probable cause affidavit. Hospital staff immediately suspected child abuse caused the severe blunt force injuries noted on the child and contacted police.

Everette Cawley allegedly told investigators that McKenna Cawley kicked and beat McKinley with a wooden slat from a bed. Investigators seized a pair of steel toe boots belonging to McKenna Cawley and noted there were clumps of hair discovered in the couple’s Texarkana, Ark., duplex when it was searched and clumps of hair were found in McKinley’s underwear.

McKinley’s head had been shaved when she arrived at the hospital and investigators theorized this was done to hide that clumps of her hair had been ripped from her head.

Both Belcher and Everette Cawley are being held in the Miller County jail.

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