Shelley & Kenneth Walker. (Source: Smith County Jail)
SMITH COUNTY, TX (KLTV) -
Tuesday afternoon a Smith County jury found Kenneth and Shelley Walker guilty of burning their two-year-old granddaughter's feet with bathwater.
Their charge, injury to a child causing serious bodily injury, is a first degree felony. The punishment range for this charge could be anywhere between five and 99 years or life in prison. The Walkers could also be fined up to $10,000 each. Community supervision up to 10 years is also a punishment option.
The punishment phase of the trial is scheduled to begin around 9 a.m. on Wednesday.
Closing arguments began just after 9:30 a.m. Tuesday.
Smith County Assistant District Attorney Jason Parish put photos of the girl's burned feet on display for the jury and repeatedly told them, "This was no accident."
Parish said he believed Kenneth Walker burned his granddaughter's feet and Shelley Walker knew what was going on and tried to cover it up for him. On large white sheets of paper, Parish went over each story the Walkers told investigators, nurses and doctors about what had happened. Parish said their story continued to change because they couldn't remember their lies and weren't on the same page with each other. Parish said if the Walkers had been telling the truth, their story would have never changed. He said evidence showed the Walkers' grandchildren had a history of playing in the bathroom when they weren't supposed to. Parish said he believed that day in February, the Walkers got frustrated with their granddaughter and burned her feet as punishment.
Defense attorney Scott Ellis started his argument by reminding the jury that neither Kenneth or Shelley Walker had a criminal history or a negative background with Child Protective Services. Ellis told the jury CPS did a thorough background check on the Walkers before they were allowed to adopt their three grandchildren. Ellis said Tyler Police Department Detective Michelle Brock conducted an incompetent investigation. He said he has been telling his clients, the Walkers, to just continue to pray and trust the jury will make the right decision. Ellis told the jury this case was nothing but speculation and that reasonable doubt abounded. He told them the Walkers had admitted they lied to protect their four-year-old autistic and sometimes aggressive grandson, who they thought might have caused their granddaughter's injuries without meaning to. In the arrest affidavit, authorities pointed to the absence of splash marks as an indicator that the burns were not accidental. Ellis reiterated that the water temperature was not hot enough to cause splash marks had there even been splashing. Ellis told the jury through the whole ordeal, neither of the Walkers never pointed the finger at each other and he believed that was because neither of them burned their granddaughter. Ellis asked the jury to do the courageous thing and to find the Walkers not guilty.
Defense attorney Cameron Castleberry told the jury it was not the defense's job to prove innocence. He said in trial it is the prosecution's job to prove guilt. He said doubt isn't just reasonable in this case, but it's certain. Castleberry also added that serious bodily injury is also a part of the charge and that the girl's injuries did not meet the court's definition of "serious bodily injury."
In his closing statements, Parish said Castleberry had just given everything away by addressing the serious bodily injury part of the charge. He said if the Walkers hadn't committed the crime, the definition of serious bodily injury would be irrelevant. The State said the major difference between their experts and the defense's experts is that the State's experts actually treated the two-year-old girl. Parish closed his arguments by telling the jury that the two people who were supposed to love and care for the two-year-old, were the ones who caused her injuries. He asked the jury to go back into the jury room and fight for the little girl. Parish told the jury they, and only they, can get the little girl the justice she deserves.