Parents cry as lawyer sings for dead child

MARIETTA, Ga. - A Cobb County prosecutor closed her case Wednesday against a mother and father charged with murdering their 8-year-old son by singing Happy Birthday over a cake.

As Joseph and Sonya Smith broke down in tears Wednesday, Senior Assistant District Attorney Eleanor Dixon reminded the Cobb County Superior Court jury that there should be more than eight candles on the cake. But she said Josef Smith was the victim of malice and felony murder committed by his parents in 2003.

The parents watched impassively through Wednesday's closing arguments until Ms. Dixon brought out the birthday cake, lit the candles and began singing for "dear Josef." The Smiths embraced and continued sobbing after Ms. Dixon finished singing.

Ms. Dixon cited testimony that items including a belt, hanger, high-heeled shoes, an extension cord, glue stick and paddle were used in what she said was a long period of abuse against the boy.

"Doctors testified these were painful injuries," Ms. Dixon said. "This wasn't discipline. This was abuse, time and time again."

Prosecutors allege Josef Smith was beaten by his parents, locked inside a wooden box and forced to stay in a closet for hours at a time before he died in October 2003.

The jury resumes deliberations at 8:30 a.m. today.