OCILLA - A Irwin County jury deliberated a little more than three hours Wednesday before finding Hodari Churchill guilty of felony murder and cruelty to children in the death of 3-month-old Jada McLain.
The evidence at trial revealed that on Sunday morning, Dec. 23, 2001, Tausha McClain, the child's mother, left Jada in the care of her boyfriend, Churchill, while she went to church. The baby was "fine" at that point, but before she could return, her child was dead.
The defendant was the only person with the child from the moment her mother left until the child died. He claimed that the child was having no problems at all that morning. He said that he left the child on the sofa at about 1 p.m. and went to the kitchen to prepare a bottle for her, and that when he returned about five minutes later she was not breathing.
However, Dr. Anthony Clark, the medical examiner from the State Crime Lab in Moultrie, testified that the child died from blunt force trauma to her head that fractured her skull and injured her brain. She also had torn neck muscles from a "whiplash" type injury caused by a sudden and forceful snatching of the child. Clark testified that the child's death would have occurred in no more than 30 minutes from the infliction of the injuries.
Clark also found that the child had been injured before, and had rib fractures that were three to six weeks old and in the process of healing.
Following the verdict, Judge J. Harvey Davis sentenced Churchill to life in prison.
The defendant was represented by Glenn Perry and the state was represented by District Attorney Paul Bowden.
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Larkey Henry Barnes, 72, of Fitzgerald passed away Saturday, November 28, 2020, in Alapaha. Among his survivors is his wife, Linda Barnes of Fitzgerald. Arrangements are incomplete and will be announced later by Bowen-Donaldson Home for Funerals.