Aug. 22, 2003, 9:57PM
Angel Doe's killer gets life sentence in 2nd trial
Raymond Jefferson up for parole in 15 years
By RAD SALLEE
Copyright 2003 Houston Chronicle
A Houston warehouseman was sentenced Friday to life in prison in his second trial for causing injuries that killed the child known as Angel Doe.
Investigators and child advocates gave that name to 6-year-old Raysate Chain Knight after her then-unidentified body was found Sept. 9, 2001, in a ditch filled with water and trash. She was scarred, bruised, malnourished, burned with cigarettes and wrapped in a blanket.
A jury in May deadlocked after three days, but the panel who heard almost the same evidence this week in state District Judge Mary Lou Keel's court took just three hours to convict Raymond Jefferson, 49, of serious bodily injury to a child and two hours to assess the maximum punishment. He will be eligible for parole in 15 years.
Jefferson did not testify. Raysate's mother, Connie Knight, 42, his common-law wife, testified she had often abused Raysate in anger but that Jefferson delivered the fatal blow.
Knight, who faces the same charges, was offered no plea bargain for her testimony, prosecutors Casey O'Brien and Sylvia Escobedo said.
Knight's daughters, ages 18, 14 and 9, confirmed her account that Jefferson kicked Raysate in the head in their home in the 9300 block of Asheville on Sept. 7, 2001.
It was not clear why Raysate was singled out for continual abuse or what prompted the fatal blow. Knight said Raysate had soiled a blanket and rubbed feces on a wall, and police said Jefferson complained about the TV being too loud.
Knight said she was addicted to crack cocaine when Raysate was born, and the child had been hard to manage, but others described Raysate as a happy, normal child.
When efforts to revive Raysate failed, Knight said, she drove at Jefferson's directions to an isolated area and he disposed of her body.
In the trial's punishment phase, the 14-year-old daughter testified as a character witness that Jefferson was not abusive.
Medical examiners said Raysate died of a blow to the head two days before her 47-pound body was discovered in the 5100 block of Groveton in southeast Houston.
Six months later, her grandmother, Joan Bell, saw an artist's sketch of what the child had probably looked like when alive and told police she thought it was Raysate.
When Knight was arrested in Louisiana, she told police she alone caused Raysate's death and disposed of the body.
In letters to Jefferson from jail, she held him blameless and begged his forgiveness.
Defense attorney Keith Gross argued that Knight changed her story after feeling that Jefferson had abandoned her. He was arrested Aug. 7, 2002.
Jurors would not comment on their verdict.