Defense blames mom
Jury weighs evidence in child’s death
By Julie Arrington
POSTED Aug. 26, 2010 8:30 a.m.
A defense attorney told jurors Wednesday that it’s possible the adoptive mother of a Forsyth County toddler was the one who beat the child to death.
John Rife said in closing arguments that his client, Christopher Brian Gilreath, is not guilty of the charges against him and that Gilreath’s former girlfriend, Miriam Pinckney, never accused him of killing her son.
“She never said he did it,” Rife said. “There’s absolutely, positively zero evidence saying he did it.”
Gilreath, 41, did not testify on his own behalf during the trial, which began last week in Forsyth County Superior Court.
Prosecutors have contended that Gilreath beat the child to death in a drug-fueled rage.
He was indicted in November for murder, two counts of felony murder, aggravated battery, two counts of first-degree cruelty to children and possession of cocaine.
If convicted on the murder charges, Gilreath will serve a mandatory life sentence.
Pinckney found the boy dead in his bed the morning of Feb. 13, 2009, at her home on Catalina Drive, near Lake Lanier.
Rife suggested that Pinckney had been under a lot of stress, ranging from her finances and raising two children by herself to a text message from Gilreath telling her he was leaving.
“She must’ve fooled some of the people all of the time, but don’t let her fool you all of the time,” Rife told the jury.
Pinckney pleaded guilty Aug. 4 to first-degree cruelty to children for failing to seek medical treatment for her adopted 2-year-old son, Joshua.
She is currently serving a five-year prison sentence.
Earlier in the trial, Pinckney testified that she had left the child and his younger adopted sister in Gilreath’s care the day before while she was at work in Atlanta.
In her closing argument, Chief Assistant District Attorney Sandy Partridge said Pinckney was never charged with beating the boy or for murdering him.
“There is one reasonable theory in this case and that is that Christopher Gilreath, in a crack-fused rage, killed this child for no reason other than a dirty diaper, a bad temper and an abandoned and malignant heart,” Partridge said.
She said everything in Pinckney’s version of events was corroborated and that the boy’s death was not an accident.
“He was beaten to death, beaten to death by this defendant,” Partridge said.
Pinckney testified that she came home for lunch on Feb.12, 2009, and found the boy sound asleep. Gilreath told her the child was taking a nap.
Gilreath had previously told her Joshua had a bad diaper and had to be rinsed off in the shower downstairs.
Pinckney testified that when she came home for the day about 5:45 p.m., Gilreath had told her Joshua “must’ve fallen.”
She said the boy was sleeping in the same position on the same bed in an upstairs room as when she saw him earlier.
That night, she put him to bed in the room he shared with his younger sister that night, wrapped in a blanket, and never removed the cover from him.
Forsyth County firefighters and sheriff’s investigators testified that Pinckney called 911 when she found Joshua the next morning.
They said she began CPR while waiting for help. When they arrived, they saw the boy lying on the floor in the bedroom, his face and body bruised and vomit on his bed.
Lora Darrisaw, deputy chief medical examiner for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, testified that the autopsy determined the boy had suffered at least five to six blows to the head.
Darrisaw said the head injuries caused his death and were evidence of an assault. The child likely died four to 12 hours before he was found, she said, and the injuries likely occurred eight to 10 hours before he died.
Darrisaw also said a child beaten that badly would not wake up, eat or do anything in the hours before his death if medical treatment did not intervene.