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NC Supreme Court to hear Raleigh stepdad's bid for new murder trial

Posted October 1, 2014

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— The North Carolina Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Nov. 17 in the appeal of an Iraq War veteran convicted of sexually assaulting and killing his 10-month-old stepdaughter five years ago.

The state Court of Appeals earlier this year overturned Joshua Andrew Stepp's September 2011 conviction after finding that the judge improperly instructed the jury.

Testifying at his trial, Stepp, 31, of Raleigh, denied the sexual offense but admitted to beating Cheyenne Yarley to death in November 2009 while her mother was at work. He claimed, however, he did not know why he killed the girl.

Defense attorneys argued that Stepp was guilty of second-degree murder because he suffered post-traumatic stress disorder, as a result of his Army service, and couldn't handle Cheyenne's crying that night.

Wake County prosecutors, who unsuccessfully sought the death penalty, contended that Stepp attempted to rape the child, shook her and slammed her face into the carpet and then lied to her mother, emergency workers and police about what happened.

Stepp was found guilty under what's called the felony murder rule, meaning the jury found that the child's death happened in conjunction with another felony crime, which would have been the sexual offense charge.

The Court of Appeals' 2-1 ruling stemmed from Superior Court Judge Osmond Smith improperly informing jurors about the defense's claim that evidence of sexual assault was actually the result of Stepp roughly cleaning the girl while he changed her diaper.

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  • USMC Vet Oct 1, 2014

    IF...he truly does deal with PTSD, then I can understand why a child's crying might have tipped him over the edge.
    What some civilians don't know is, when our troops were rolling into Baghdad, the insurgents there were using innocents as shields while firing upon our troops, forcing our troops to mow down innocent civilians to get the insurgents to keep themselves safe.
    This resulted in screams and cries from those innocent civilians, with arms at their backs and arms to the front, basically pleading for their lives in the face of hopelessness.
    This has left many allied troops grieving for those people, living through hearing their cries and screams over and over again.
    So I can understand an incessantly crying child may have sent him over the edge.
    As for the sexual assault charges, I cannot speak to that.