No bond set for woman accused of killing step-daughter

Crime

The Texarkana, Arkansas woman accused of murder in the death of her step-daughter has been ordered held without bond. 

Both McKenna Belcher-Cawley and her husband Everette Cawley appeared in Miller County court Friday morning. 

The judge set the bond on Everette Cawley, the toddler’s biological father, at $1 million. 

A preliminary autopsy of the three-year-old showed she died of severe internal organ damage, according to the Texarkana Arkansas Police Department.

An arrest affidavit filed by investigators notes the findings of the attending physician at Arkansas Children’ s Hospital in laying out a case of horrific abuse suffered not only by the little girl but also her little brother. 

According to the arrest affidavit detailing the extent of the child’s injuries, Dr. Karen Farst found cuts to the girl’s kidneys and pancreas “caused by extreme high force events” and cuts and bruises to her lungs “caused by shearing mechanisms, which would suggest the victim sustained blunt force blows/slams to a flat surface.” 

Dr. Farst also found “elevated liver function which would be due to primary blunt force trauma and/or prolonged period of oxygen and circulation.” The detective filing the affidavit for McKenna Cawley’s arrest says the Dr. Farst told him that the little girl’s survivability was highly unlikely, and added that she had been deprived of oxygen for an extended amount of time. 

The affidavit also references the medical examiner’s findings that the 3-year-old girl was missing hair from her scalp that appeared to have been removed by force, and a delay in seeking care for injuries that would have clearly required immediate medical attention. 

“This is further supported by the shaving of the victim’s head, in an attempt to mask the forcible removal of hair,” the affidavit states, noting that responding detectives found long tufts of hair in the residence, as well as in the victim’s underwear. 

The affidavit goes on to reference the doctor’s findings that the girl’s 2-year-old brother had suffered similar external injuries to his face, torso, and legs. 

“Dr. Farst went on to say that a blunt type instrument/object had been used to inflict his injuries as well, but there was no skeletal damage or internal injury” to the boy.

The 2-year-old and the couple’s 2-month-old infant have been taken into custody by the Arkansas Department of Child Protective Services.

McKenna Belcher-Cawley is charged with capital murder and domestic battery in the 2nd degree. Everette Cawley is charged with two counts of permitting the abuse of a minor.

Both are being held at the Miller County, AR jail. 

Prosecutors say they have not decided whether to seek life in prison or death penalty for McKenna Cawley. They say they’re still investigating.

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