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Roy day care owner found guilty in killing of 8-month-old boy

(Weber County Jail)

Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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OGDEN — A jury found a Roy woman guilty of child abuse homicide Tuesday following a two-week trial in which prosecutors said she killed a baby boy at her in-home day care by slamming his head on a changing table in frustration.

The verdict against Tisha Morley, 36, was read in court about five hours after the jurors began deliberations.

Parents Alesha and Christopher Penland, whose 8-month-old son, Lincoln, was killed in 2014, cried and hugged family and friends after the verdict was handed down.

Morley's supporters cried as she was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs, the Standard-Examiner reported.

Outside court, the Penlands thanked their supporters and said they were glad the trial was over. They also hugged Morley's family, including her husband.

"They are losing someone, too," Christopher Penland said.

Morley faces up to life in prison when she is sentenced June 20.

Lincoln died of blunt force trauma to the head, with his death ruled a homicide, Dr. Pamela Ulmer of the Utah Office of the Medical Examiner testified during the trial in 2nd District Court.

Morley's attorney, Logan Bushell, said the baby's 3-year-old brother caused the injuries that led to his 2014 death.

Morley acknowledged leaving the boy alone, Bushell said. He asked the jury to find her guilty of the lesser charge of negligent homicide.

"She messed up. She violated the Penlands' trust when she left Lincoln Penland alone," Bushell said. "She will never live this down. She will live with it for the rest of her life. She was negligent, and that poor decision is what led to this."

Weber County prosecutor Branden Miles countered that Morley should be found guilty of child-abuse homicide, reminding jurors that she was the only adult in the home the day Lincoln died.

Miles said the defense's theory that "a shy, 30-pound, 3-year-old, 3-foot-tall toddler caused all of these injuries" didn't make sense.

"The only other acceptable alternative to that is that (Morley) did it," Miles said.

Morley did not testify during the two-week trial.

Bushell based his alternate explanation on an interview that a 3-year-old girl from the day care gave to investigators in which she said she saw Lincoln's older brother kick and step on him, and hit him with a swinging door.

"That little girl saw something. Children come to conclusions that are observationally accurate, but not always 100 percent factually correct," Bushell said.

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