Jurors see DNA evidence linked to 4-year-old girl's death

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Photo provided by Leiliana Wright's grandmother.

Prosecutors wrapped up their case Friday in the trial for a murdered 4-year-old Grand Prairie girl.

Charles Phifer is charged with both capital murder and felony injury to a child for the death of Leiliana Wright in 2016.

He’s accused of tying her up in a closet, beating her with a belt and bamboo stick and throwing her against a wall after she drank her little brother’s juice. An autopsy also revealed she had been sexually abused, according to court documents.

In court Friday, prosecutors introduced DNA evidence. An expert testified that Leiliana’s DNA was found on Phifer’s fingernail clippings, as well as a glove that her mother said Phifer used to torture her. The little girl’s DNA was also found on the cracked wall that her mom testified Phifer threw her against.

Jurors seemed visibly disturbed as they were asked to look at pictures of her blackened and bruised up face. A medical examiner said she suffered at least 12 blows, possibly more with overlapping injuries.

Phifer chose not to testify in his own defense. His attorneys rested without calling a single witness.

On Thursday, his lawyers pointed out discrepancies in Leiliana’s mother’s testimony. Jeri Quezada admitted she was high on heroin the day her daughter died.

Quezada pleaded guilty to injury to a child charges last year and is currently serving a 50-year prison sentence. As part of her plea deal, she promised truthful testimony during her ex-boyfriend’s trial.

Leiliana’s father attended the remainder of the trial after he was not called to testify. His parents had raised Leiliana until she was 2 when her mother was released from prison and regained custody over their objections.

According to a state report obtained in 2017 by FOX 4, Child Protective Services had opened investigations involving Leiliana and her mother in 2014, 2015 and 2016. Her paternal grandparents had fought to in court obtain custody of the little girl. In the end, they agreed to visitation rights.

Leiliana’s child abuse case sparked public outrage. It also prompted an investigation and changes within CPS. The agency acknowledged an overloaded system caused caseworkers to overlook a pattern of severe abuse.

If convicted, Phifer faces a life sentence without parole. Closing arguments are set for Monday morning.