GALVESTON, Texas – A mother was convicted of capital murder Monday for the death of her 2-year-old daughter, who was whipped with belts and flung onto a tile floor to teach her manners, before her body was dumped in a box in Galveston Bay. Jurors deliberated less than two hours before finding Kimberly Trenor guilty. She received an automatic sentence of life without parole. Prosecutors did not seek the death penalty.
"Justice has been served today. Today it's about Riley" — the victim, Galveston County District Attorney Kurt Sistrunk said after the verdict.
Trenor and her husband, Royce Clyde Zeigler II, were accused of killing Riley Ann Sawyers while disciplining her in July 2007. Prosecutors said Trenor and Zeigler beat Riley with belts, dunked her head in cold water and threw her onto a tile floor, fracturing her skull. Zeigler's capital murder trial will be held later.
After Riley's death, the couple stuffed her body in a plastic box and hid it at their suburban Houston home before dumping it in Galveston Bay, according to authorities.
Sheriff's investigators dubbed the toddler "Baby Grace" during the weeks they worked to identify her remains, found by a fisherman. Many of those investigators were in the courtroom Monday and cried as the verdict was read.
"We all made a promise to that little girl ... that we would find the people responsible for her death and bring them to justice and we did," sheriff's Sgt. Michael Barry said.