State not seeking death penalty for teen accused in toddler’s death

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

A Bowie County prosecutor announced Wednesday that the state will not seek the death penalty for a Texarkana teen accused of beating his ex-girlfriend’s toddler to death in January.

Clifford Gayton, 18, pleaded not guilty to a charge of capital murder Wednesday morning at his arraignment hearing before 102nd District Judge Bobby Lockhart. Assistant District Attorney Kelley Crisp told the court and Gayton’s lawyer, Josh Potter of Texarkana, that her office won’t be seeking the death penalty for Gayton but that she does intend to ask a Bowie County grand jury to indict Gayton for injury to a child in connection with injuries found on the 1-year-old sister of the 2-year-old boy Gayton allegedly beat to death in January.

Da’Corian Wright was pronounced dead Jan. 28 at his mother’s home on Elizabeth Street in Texarkana, Texas. The boy’s mother left him and his little sister with Gayton for several hours that day while she went to work, according to a probable cause affidavit. When she came home, the mother said she thought the children were sleeping but realized Da’Corian was cold and not breathing when she checked on him around midnight.

Da’Corian had been struck so hard that some of his internal organs showed tearing. A Texas medical examiner reported to Texarkana, Texas, police that the boy had bruises to his head, torso, legs and pelvis as well as severe damage to internal organs. Da’Corian’s sister apparently showed signs of abuse also.

Crisp said the Bowie County District Attorney’s Office will be asking the grand jury to indict Gayton for third degree felony injury to a child, an offense punishable by two to 10 years in prison. If found guilty of capital murder, Gayton faces life without the possibility of parole.

Crisp said Gayton’s age and lack of prior criminal history were major factors in the decision not to seek the death penalty.

Lockhart scheduled Gayton to return to court for a pretrial hearing May 4. Gayton is in Bowie County custody. His bail is set at $2 million on the capital murder charge.

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