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Woman Acquitted Of Murdering 14-Month-Old Stepdaughter In Retrial A Year After Conviction

After the retrial was moved more than 200 miles from her home, T'Kia Bevily was acquitted of her stepdaughter Jurayah Smith's murder. Her initial conviction was overturned due to a problem with a juror.

By Gina Tron
Gavel Crime Story

A Mississippi woman has been acquitted of murdering her 14-month-old stepdaughter, a killing in which she was initially convicted.

A Monroe County jury on Friday acquitted T’Kia Bevily of capital murder for the 2017 death of Jurayah Smith, the Clarion-Ledger reports. Bevily had initially been convicted of Smith’s murder in January 2021 by a jury in Claiborne County, where the murder occurred.

But, that initial conviction was appealed after Bevily’s defense discovered that one of the jurors is related to the victim’s mother. In turn, in September a judge granted Bevily a new trial.

The second trial was held about 225 miles away.

“When I heard Judge Irving say ‘not guilty,’ I was kind of in shock a little bit,” Bevily said on Friday following the verdict, according to WLBT. “And then when it really hit me, I broke down.”

“The evidence just did not support it because it just didn’t happen,” Dennis Sweet IV, one of Bevily’s attorneys told WLBT. “She’s been innocent this whole time.”

During the first, five-day-long trial, prosecutors alleged that Bevily killed the baby with multiple blunt-force trauma attacks to her head, WAPT reported last year. The injuries allegedly occurred while the child was in the custody of both Bevily and Smith’s father, Morris Bevily.

DeDreuna Smith, the victim's mother, was visibly distraught when Bevily was acquitted last week. 

Morris still faces a capital murder charge in the case, and his trial is expected to be scheduled sometime this year.

“She had to sit through weeks of having her name dragged through the mud, her character dragged through the mud,” said Lawrence Blackmon, another one of T’Kia’s attorneys told WLBT. “I believe she was specifically called a murderer and a murder weapon today by the state of Mississippi, but the facts were just not there to support those accusations.”

Sweet has vowed that he and Backmon will continue to clear their client’s name.