Jada Mills would have turned 4 this week if she hadn’t suffered injuries a doctor equated to being dropped from the height of 10 stories.
The man who inflicted that damage, Alex Murray, 34, pleaded guilty to felony murder Monday in Richmond Superior Court. “I’m truly sorry for what happened,” Murray said.
Chief Judge Carl C. Brown Jr. asked Murray happened on March 6, 2016, when he was left to care for Jada and three other small children. Murray told Brown he didn’t abuse Jada like the prosecutor said, but did take responsibility for her death.
That Sunday morning, in a span of a few hours, Murray hit Jada a number of times with a belt and punched her in the stomach, said Assistant District Attorney Joanna Mastny. At one point, according to one of the other children, Murray tried to force feed Jada grits to point they were coming out of her nose, Mastny said.
By the time Murray called 911 and Jada was taken to the hospital, she was already 80 percent brain dead, Mastny said. She died that night. She had suffered a severe brain injury and her bowels were lacerated.
Murray’s criminal history was limited to misdemeanors, one of which was ill treatment of an animal.
Murray came from a good family who supports him, said defense attorney Shawn Merzlak. He graduated from high school, served in the military and worked full time. Murray had lived with Jada’s mother and intended to marry her and raise the children together, Merzlak said.
He made a terrible mistake but never intended to cause Jada’s death, Merzlak said. What happened to Jada was horrible, and it should never happen again, the judge said. He sentenced Murray to life in prison. He will be eligible for parole.
Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or firstname.lastname@example.org.