CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – A father who beat his 4-year-old daughter to death could face up to 89 years in prison after being convicted of felony murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect Thursday, but the child’s mother could potentially avoid jail time after being found guilty of much lesser charges.

DeMarkus Taylor and Rawny Taylor had both been charged with aggravated child neglect, felony child murder and giving false police reports in the death of their 4-year-old daughter, Arianna Taylor, who was found dead inside her bedroom on July 12, 2013.

DeMarkus Taylor also was charged with aggravated child abuse and felony murder in the case.
He was found guilty on all counts.

But Rawny Taylor, who now goes by her maiden name of Alvarez, was found guilty of the lesser charges of reckless endangerment and criminally negligent homicide. She was also found guilty of false report, which of the three charges, could carry the stiffest penalty of 2 to 4 years in prison. But attorneys on both sides said she could potentially get a suspended sentence and probation and possibly even avoid jail time.

Both parents still face two counts of aggravated child abuse in connection with injuries found on their other two children, then ages 3 and 6, when the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office investigated Arianna’s death. The siblings both live together with a new family now.

Circuit Court Judge William Goodman III will sentence the two on Sept.14 and Assistant District Attorney Kimberly Lund said that may be when the other abuse charges are set for trial. Those charges were severed from Arianna Taylor’s case before trial.

A juror who did not want to be identified said jurors convicted Rawny Taylor of the lesser charges because she was at work at the time of the abuse. She said she was not aware that the children had been removed from the parents’ home because of previous abuse and had only been returned to their custody several months before Arianna was found dead on July 12, 2013, a day after her father beat her and then put her to bed.

He was the only adult in the home that afternoon, and the only one who could have inflicted the injuries that ultimately led to Arianna’s death, Lund told the jury during closing arguments Thursday.
“There is no doubt about it, this child was beaten,” she said. “She was beaten and he was the only one home... If he didn’t do it, who did?”

The jury apparently agreed and returned with a verdict after only an hour and 15 minutes of deliberations, finding him guilty of two counts of felony murder, aggravated child abuse and aggravated child neglect.

He could face 60 years in prison on the felony murder charges; 15 to 25 for the aggravated child abuse; and two to four years in prison on the false report, said his attorney Chase Smith.

“We’re disappointed by the verdict and we await sentencing and we will appeal the decision of the jury,” Smith said.

Rawny Taylor’s attorney Chris Clark had argued that she was not home when her husband beat their daughter and had no reason to believe anything was wrong when she came home and found her daughter snoring in bed.

The child never woke up, and Lund had argued Rawny Taylor must have seen the severe bruising on the child’s body and should have been concerned by the “agonal breathing” that precedes death and doesn’t sound like regular snoring.

She said the mother should have been concerned when the child didn’t get up that night and could potentially have saved her life by calling 911 before the child’s brain swelled so much that she died.
An autopsy showed bleeding and blod clots on her brain that were consistent with a severe car wreck or a fall from a second or third story building, Lund said, again showing them a photo taken during the autopsy.

But Clark told the jurors that to find her guilty as charged they would have to believe to a moral certainty that she knowingly neglected her child and that that led to her death.

“The question is not, ‘should she have known,’” he said. “The question is not, ‘could she have known.’”

Clark said the jury had to be certain beyond any reasonable doubt that she knew her child was hurt and did nothing. He said the state failed to meet that burden.