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Posted: Tuesday, April 22nd 2014 at 10:36am

SCOGA upholds murder conviction of Gainesville man

By Staff
EMAIL STORY CONTACT EDITOR PRINT
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ATLANTA - A Tuesday morning ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court means a murder conviction will stand for a Gainesville man who killed his girlfriend's 18-month-old daughter in June 2011.

The justices unanimously upheld the August 2012 convictions for malice murder, aggravated assault and cruelty to children in the first degree levied against Stephen Clark West in connection with the beating death of Kaylee Kipp and the physical abuse of her older sisters, ages 7 and 4 at the time of the crimes.

West had argued in his appeal that the evidence was insufficient to convict him, the State improperly attacked his right to remain silent and his trial attorney had rendered "ineffective assistance of counsel" in violation of his constitutional rights. The justices turned aside all of those arguments.

West is currently serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.

In issuing Tuesday's ruling, the State Supreme Court outlined evidence presented in the court case:

"According to the evidence, on the afternoon of June 12, 2011, emergency responders found Kaylee’s body in her 'Pack 'n Play' crib at the Gainesville apartment that her then 24-year-old mother [Deanna Kipp] shared with West, who was 22. Kaylee had been dead for hours and rigor mortis had set in. The medical examiner determined that skin lesions at the toddler’s diaper line were most likely caused by postmortem insect activity. Examination of her body revealed several possible causes of death. According to the medical examiner who performed the autopsy, Kaylee was struck at least six times in her head and face, and the bruises were consistent with human knuckle marks from a closed fist. Pooling of blood at the front of her body was consistent with being pressed face down against the pad of her crib. The medical examiner concluded that multiple injuries caused Kaylee’s brain to undergo severe swelling and that the little girl died not only as a result of blunt force trauma to her head but also as a result of asphyxiation caused by having her face pressed down into the bottom of her 'Pack 'n Play.' She might have survived if she had received immediate medical attention to reverse the swelling in her brain, and 'her suffering was likely prolonged,' according to this Court’s opinion upholding Kipp’s convictions.

"Following Kaylee’s death, [siblings] S.K. and A.K. were taken to the Edmundson-Telford Center for Children for physical examinations and forensic interviews. They too had sustained a number of gruesome injuries. A nurse practitioner found cigarette burns on S.K.’s wrist and elbow and a large bruise on her backside, which the child said was from being 'spanked really hard.' The younger child had multiple bruises in various stages of healing. Both her eyes were black like 'raccoon eyes' – called peri-orbital bruising – and her right ear was bruised, all consistent with someone pulling or yanking her hair. She also had bruising on the back of her neck as a result of force being applied. The older child testified at West's trial that West spanked the girls with a belt most nights, pinched them and pulled them by their hair. She described one incident when he not only spanked her but shoved her face into a pillow so she could not breathe. The girls were placed in a temporary foster home where they told the foster mother that the night before Kaylee’s body was found, West had spanked them. S.K. told the foster mother that also that night, she had heard Kaylee crying and being spanked downstairs. She said that her mother made her go check on Kaylee the next morning. The little girl found her baby sister cold to the touch. She later told another foster mother that Kaylee was thrown into her crib 'like a basketball.' She related how she had found Kaylee dead and expressed fear that she or A.K. would also die. Both girls had recurring nightmares.

"Kaylee’s blood and saliva were found on a pair of denim shorts found in the master bedroom that evidence later showed belonged to West. The location of Kaylee’s blood and saliva on the shorts suggested West was holding her against his lap while punching her.

"Police interviewed West twice after finding Kaylee’s body and noted a number of inconsistencies in his statements. He claimed he was 'probably a little drunk,' 'blacked out,' and did not remember touching Kaylee, but he was 'so sorry' if he did.

"Kipp admitted to an investigator that she had seen West spank the children with significant force, put his hands over their mouths, and force Kaylee’s face into the pad of her crib."

NOTE: In a separate trial, the children's mother Deanna Kipp was convicted in November 2012 of felony murder and child cruelty for her role in Kaylee's murder and the abuse of her other children. She was sentenced to life plus 35 years in prison. In November 2013, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld her convictions but remanded her case to the trial court to correct sentencing errors.
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