RIPLEY, WV (WSAZ/Gray News) - A West Virginia man could spend the rest of his life in prison after a jury found him guilty on multiple charges in the 2016 death and sexual assault of a 10-month-old girl, WSAZ reports.
After four days of testimony, it only took the jury two hours on Tuesday afternoon to find 33-year-old Benjamin Taylor guilty on rape and murder charges.
The jurors recommended no mercy, meaning they think he should not be eligible for parole at any point.
"That’s how much mercy he had for Emmaleigh Barringer. That’s how much care he had for the life he took. Show him that level of care. Show him that level of mercy. In other words, show him none,” said Jackson County Prosecutor Katie Franklin in her closing statement.
Taylor rocked back and forth with his hand over one side of his face as he learned he could potentially spend the rest of his life behind bars.
Some family members sobbed softly after that verdict.
Taylor was accused of the death and rape of 10-month-old Emmaleigh Barringer. Investigators say the girl’s mother, Amanda Adkins, found her unresponsive and covered in blood when she was in Taylor’s care back in October 2016.
Emmaleigh died a few days later of a skull fracture.
"A piece of all of us died that day that Emmaleigh passed away,” said Chief Deputy Ross Mellinger of the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department. "Jackson County, as a community, we all can begin to heal today now that we’ve reached this verdict.”
Taylor took the stand in his own defense Monday. He said he blacked out the night of the alleged crime, so he could not say for certain whether he raped and murdered Emmaleigh.
Taylor had been dating Adkins at the time of the incident.
In court, Adkins testified about the day she found Emmaleigh unresponsive. During her testimony, she reflected on her daughter’s strength in her short life.
"She was born eight weeks early, but she was a fighter,” Adkins said.
In April 2017, Gov. Jim Justice signed a bill called Emmaleigh’s Law. It increased the penalty for a person convicted of child abuse causing death from 10 to 40 years in jail to up to 15 years to life.