Man pleads not guilty to murder of Texarkana toddler

Clifford James Gayton, 18, of Texarkana Texas

A 19-year-old Texarkana man entered pleas of not guilty to capital murder and other charges Wednesday at a hearing in Bowie County.

Clifford Gayton Jr. was indicted last month on charges of capital murder, first degree murder, first degree injury to a child and third degree injury to a child. Texarkana lawyer Josh Potter entered not guilty pleas to all the charges on Gayton’s behalf. The case is scheduled for trial Nov. 1.

The first three charges concern the Jan. 28 death of 2-year-old Da’Corian Wright.

The boy was pronounced dead at the scene after he was found unresponsive by his mother in their home in the 4600 block of Elizabeth Street, according to a probable cause affidavit. The mother told investigators Gayton was the only person who had access to the boy while she was at work. The mother said she believed Da’Corian was sleeping until she went to check on him around midnight and realized he was cold to the touch and not breathing.

Gayton with Attorney Josh Potter and ADA Kelly Crisp April 6, 2016
Gayton with Attorney Josh Potter and ADA Kelly Crisp April 6, 2016

An autopsy alleged revealed blunt force injuries to the boy’s head and blunt force trauma to his body which included tearing in some internal organs.

A Bowie County grand jury indicted Gayton for capital murder in March. Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp said at an earlier hearing that the state is not seeking the death penalty. That means Gayton faces life without parole if found guilty of capital murder. Last month a grand jury added lesser charges of murder and first degree injury to a child in connection with Da’Corian’s death. Both offenses are punishable by five to 99 years or life in prison.

The third degree injury to a child charge concerns injuries noted on the body of Da’Corian’s 13-month-old sister by child welfare authorities who examined her the night Da’Corian died. The girl was examined and treated at a Texarkana hospital and at Children’s Hospital in Little Rock. Third degree injury to a child is punishable by two to 10 years in prison.

Gayton is Bowie County custody. Bail is set at $2 million.

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