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Mom heard 'different scream' the night infant daughter died

Posted August 23, 2011
Updated August 24, 2011

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— The mother of an infant who Raleigh police say was sexually abused and killed at the hands of her stepfather said Tuesday that she had second thoughts about going to work at Fort Bragg on the night her daughter died Nov. 8, 2009.

"I actually had thought about driving back home, but I didn't," Brittany Yarley testified Tuesday in her ex-husband's first-degree murder trial. "He had advised me that she had fallen off the couch and that she had a rug burn and that it wasn't that serious."

It was a "very different scream," Yarley recalled, almost as if 10-month-old Cheyenne Yarley were "extremely hurt," but Joshua Stepp had been able to handle situations like that before, she said.

It was the last time, she said, she heard her daughter's voice.

Within the hour, Stepp called 911, reporting that his stepdaughter had choked on some toilet paper inside their Raleigh home.

Doctors at WakeMed in Raleigh worked for more than 15 minutes to try to revive her but were unsuccessful. By then, Yarley said, she had talked to Stepp a second time.

"The defendant got on the phone and said it was really bad," she said. "At that time, a nurse on site had picked up the phone and had advised me that I needed to come to WakeMed."

When she arrived at the hospital, Yarley said, Dr. Sammy Saad told her they noticed injuries to child's body that could have been from sexual trauma and head injuries that weren't consistent with a fall from a couch.

"Her mom's first response was Josh would not do that," Saad, a pediatric emergency physician, testified, "and we ended the discussion at that time. She didn't have any further questions."

Prosecutors, who are seeking the death penalty against Stepp, 28, say he sexually assaulted, beat, shook and slammed Cheyenne's face into the carpet for nearly an hour, leaving her with a scarlet mask of burns and injuries.

Defense attorneys don't deny that he killed the girl but say Stepp, an Iraq war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, can't explain why he did what he did. He had been drinking at the time and had taken a heavy dose of painkillers.

Stepp, they say, will tell his story to the jurors when he testifies on his own behalf.

They do dispute the sexual assault claim. They say Cheyenne was injured when a frustrated Stepp had to repeatedly change her dirty diaper. Defense attorneys say investigators found none of the girl's DNA on Stepp, even though her blood was found in his underwear.

Saad, though, said that, based on his experience, that the bruising and tearing in her anal and genital regions were consistent with sexual trauma and that they could not have been caused with a finger or knuckle, as the defense claims.

When he confronted Stepp, he said, Stepp said nothing.

"I told him that Cheyenne died and that she had some injuries that are not consistent with falling off the couch. I explained there was some evidence of physical and sexual abuse," Saad said. "His face was down, as far as I remember, and he walked away."

Testimony is expected to resume Thursday.

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  • gpcatgirl Aug 31, 2011

    I am having a hard time believing that some of you think the mom should be charged as well. She had nothing to do with what he did to her baby girl. This man needs to suffer just like that precious little angel did. My heart goes out to this little girls family and as far as him he will get what he deserves. Just the fact he is having nightmares about her shows the guilt that he is feeling and well deserved. I am sure that he will get what he deserves in prison. I think the death penalty is to good for him he will not suffer the way he should if he gets it. A very evil man using the fact of his military days for an excuse. Mr. there is NO excuse for what you have done. God will be the one to punish you. Rest inpeace little ANGEL.

  • Chuck Norris Aug 25, 2011

    Not sure why the rest of my comments weren't posted, but the rest of after "tie his private parts" up to the back of a truck and drag him down the street.
    In fact, can everyone please pray for me to take this horrible thoughts out of my mind. I am so angry. The only peace I get from this story is knowing that precious little girl is in Heaven and a lot better off then all of us.

  • Chuck Norris Aug 25, 2011

    I have been reading WRAL for many years and have always chosen to keep my thoughts and opinions to myself, but this story has really disturbed me. I was raised as a christian and taught not to judge others, but I am really struggling with this story. My heart is literally hurting and my stomach has a sickening feeling. That poor innocent baby didn't stand a chance. How could a human being be so cruel? I just don't get it. I wish that the meaning treat others, as you would want to be treated could be true in this case. In my opinion, there is NO EXCUSE in this world that justifies what this man has done. The child was defenseless. She couldn't help herself. As I was reading this story-I was picturing this in my mind. I am scarred from this story. In fact, this makes me want to go back to school for criminal justice. I hope that he does get the death penalty. I hope he gets what he deserves. Honestly, if I could be the judge in this particular case, I would probably tie his private parts

  • apslatton Aug 25, 2011

    i dont think the mother is to blame...simply because she obviously trusted her husband to watch her as he has prolly done in the past and didnt think anything of it...even as moms we sometimes get a bad feeling but sometimes we also over react and when the person u trust is saying "its ok, the child is ok, go to work ill take care of it" of course shes gonna be a lil reluctant but decides to go to work...most people in this country are so quick to pass judgement w/o even knowing ALL the details...u werent there, u dont know how she felt the day she went to work, U DONT KNOW...all we do know is the stepfather commited crimes against the child...hell be punished however the courts see fit...stop babbling and stop judgeing...ur not God and u sure the heck aint perfect in any way shape or form...weather u have comiited crimes or just scream and yell at ur kids...get over urselves and get a clue...if it were u who left ur child home with someone u trusted and went work regardless of a "feel

  • barbstillkickin Aug 25, 2011

    You know the death penalty will take just way to long. I mean we have guys and girls on death row that have been there for 15 or more years. I say just put him into general population that way it will not take as long. I mean even the criminals will kill a child rapist. Sick Sick Sick. So very sad for this child may God keep her close in heaven and give her special wings.

  • got2bsaid Aug 25, 2011

    There is no defense to this...

  • nclissy79 Aug 24, 2011

    JerryBrown - you nailed it on the head.

  • hellorhighwaters Aug 24, 2011

    This man is sick....sick....sick! What man....not a man....what human being would do such things to a baby?

    It's not the wars fault; it's not the pain-killers fault; it's not even the stress that made him do this; IT'S JUST HIM.

    And this kinda thing needs special attention. And he needs to be dealt with.

  • The one and only Original WILLOW Aug 24, 2011

    you know I am just about to , i dont know

    this mother was really stupid, IF YOU FEEL SOMETHING IS WRONG, ITS WRONG, her cry was different, feck your job and get home

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Aug 24, 2011

    slantedeyes - "...what in the world does a grown 28 year old man get out of sexually abusing a baby..."

    Control and sexual gratification from a being that can't protect themselves and can't tell anyone what happened to them.

    This is a case where the guy never thought he'd get caught doing it, but the child got seriously injured in the process and then he backtracked with story after story after story of how it happened.

    And I bet this wasn't the first time he molested this child, before all went horribly wrong and he panicked trying to clean up his mess.

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