Posted: Tuesday, April 22nd 2014 at 10:36am
SCOGA upholds murder conviction of Gainesville man
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.
"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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