Mom convicted in death of 2-year-old

Date: 2012-05-18
Source: Ocala.com

By Vishal Persaud
Staff Writer
Published: Friday, May 18, 2012 at 8:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, May 18, 2012 at 10:13 p.m.

More than three years after 2-year-old Faith Ray died, her adoptive mother, Violet Ray, was found guilty of her murder on Friday.

Ray, 38, had been the prime suspect in the death of the toddler, who ultimately died of a lethal head injury. The medical examiner's office ruled her death a homicide.

The jury found Ray guilty of first-degree murder, aggravated child abuse and child neglect after more than four hours of deliberation Friday.

A courtroom full of Ray's family, who came from as far as Arkansas, sobbed, many of them with their heads in their palms and cried out loud as Ray was taken into custody.

"It's not over, it's not over," said one of her family members as she left the courtroom.

Ray, who had been visibly emotional for most of the trial and sobbed uncontrollably at points Friday, remained stoic after the verdict was read and turned slightly toward the courtroom audience to look at her sobbing family.

Assistant Public Defender Tricia Jenkins escorted Ray to the courtroom podium and asked Circuit Judge Robert Hodges that the court conduct a pre-trial investigation before sentencing Ray. She faces the maximum penalty of life in prison for the murder.

As a bailiff snapped handcuffs onto Ray's hands, Jenkins walked back to the defense's desk, her head held down in disappointment. A few of Ray's 25 or more relatives in the courtroom came up and thanked Jenkins for her efforts.

Earlier on Friday, Jenkins delivered a detailed and impassioned closing argument about how Faith's death was the result of an accident turned tragedy.

"This is a case about tragedy and we cannot avoid that," she said to the jury. "A child is dead."

Jenkins argued that Ray spanked the toddler, perhaps a bit too hard, and then found the child on her back lying on a tile kitchen floor. This was Ray's explanation for the severe blunt trauma to Faith's head that caused her death and the multiple bruises found on her back and buttocks.

Some of the blame for Faith's death was put on Ray's husband, Joe, who Jenkins said allegedly spanked the child as well. The veteran assistant public defender faulted some of the deputies and detectives from the Marion County Sheriff's Office for their allegedly shoddy investigative work during the night of the incident.

And then there was the testimony from two expert witnesses to dispute the conclusions from the medical examiner's office that Faith died of a head injury comparable to a fall out of a fourth-story window.

Jenkins reminded the jury that one doctor said the toddler suffered from a medical condition that caused her to bruise easily and that a short fall could have caused the head injury.

Testimony from another expert witness, an ergonomist, reiterated that idea, Jenkins said. The ergonomist had devised a hypothetical experiment to show how Faith could have fallen from a kitchen chair while she tried to climb up a table to grab a slice of pizza.

In their rebuttal closing argument, the prosecution countered much of what Jenkins had to say in her closing argument.

Assistant State Attorney Nicholas Camuccio ruled out all the possibilities put forth by the defense to explain Faith's death, and placed the blame solely on Ray.

"The only thing that's left is Violet Ray intentionally inflicting these injuries," he said.

Camuccio argued that Ray never called 911 after the toddler fell and delayed taking her to the hospital. Camuccio said her 5-year-old son had the sense to make the call as Ray's parents came to her house to help with Faith. But they all decided not to take immediate action or go to the hospital in time to save the toddler's life, he said.

"That night, they watched the child die because Violet (Ray) knew exactly what she did."

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