Local News

Stepdad has nightmares about infant's beating death

Posted August 31, 2011

— A Raleigh man on trial for the beating death of his 10-month-old stepdaughter nearly two years ago took the witness stand for a second day Wednesday, telling jurors that he has recurring nightmares about the night she died.

"It's always on my mind. It's always right there, and it's not going away," 28-year-old Joshua Stepp testified in his first-degree murder trial. "I'd give my life to have her back. She (was) looking at me to be dad, the one whose supposed to watch over her and make sure she's OK. I let her down."

Stepp has admitted to beating, shaking and slamming Cheyenne Yarley's face into the carpet when she wouldn't stop crying on the night of Nov. 8, 2009, but says he doesn't know why he did it.

He testified Tuesday that he was drunk and high on prescription painkillers at the time and can remember only "the most intense" parts of that night.

Defense attorneys working to keep him from facing a possible death penalty say Stepp, an Iraq war veteran, used painkillers and alcohol as a way to treat post-traumatic stress disorder, which resulted from seeing members of his Army unit killed by a roadside bomb.

"I drank all the time," Stepp said. "When I had a free moment, that's what I wanted to do."

The combination of the alcohol, drugs and PTSD along with Cheyenne's nonstop crying led to the crime, Stepp's attorneys contend.

Prosecutors, in seeking the death penalty, say that Stepp also sexually assaulted the child that night. Injuries to her body were consistent with sexual abuse.

During combative cross-examination Wednesday, Stepp maintained that he never sexually assaulted his stepdaughter and that the injuries happened because he was rough with her as he changed her diaper several times that night.

"I hurt her, and I have to live with that. That's my life sentence right there," he said. "But there's no way I could do anything sexual to any of my kids, to any kids period."

Stepp said that he wishes he would have run from his apartment that night, instead of reacting the way we did.

"I didn't mean to do that," he testified. "I pull out her pictures – I just can't say sorry enough."


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • wildcat Sep 1, 2011

    I hope this child's mother gets the chair too

    The mother did not kill the child. She made a poor decision in leaving the child with the so-call father. Now she has to live with the child's death for the rest of her life.

  • wildcat Sep 1, 2011


  • 1 awesome Dad Sep 1, 2011

    Oh the poor baby he has bad dreams about the baby he raped abused and finally murdered. So sorry to hear that my heart just bleeds for him.

    I hope this child's mother gets the chair too

  • ctnorris2011 Sep 1, 2011

    My heart aches for this poor little girl. This man has no remorse, he only wants to place blame every where else besides where it really should be on him. I hope that he does have nighmares I hope they haunt him for the rest of his life. At least he has a life, that poor little girl can't say that. What a monster!!

  • shortcake53 Sep 1, 2011

    I hope he has nightmares every single moment of the day and night.

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Aug 31, 2011

    PTSD sufferers may beat someone they perceive to be a threat to them, but I have never heard of one sexually abusing someone because of it, and I firmly believe this man raped this child, otherwise how did HER blood get in HIS underwear?

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Aug 31, 2011

    justrob - "Does the military screen these soldiers upon ETS? Do they know how many tortured minds they are releasing into civilian life or has HIPPA hamstrung them with their patient privacy issues?"

    PTSD is pretty much being treated like Agent Orange - the government hides its head in the sand until it is no longer able to because of a news story, generally by another country attempting to shame the US.

    That's how the story of the homeless Vietnam Vets got out initially. Another country (was it China?) shamed the US for criticizing them for their humanity abuses, then one of the US news channels got on-board and started interviewing the homeless in the streets to determine their Veteran status.

    As a results, ALL Veterans became eligible for VAMC aid; before then, it was only available for service-connected issues, and only then if it could be proven after getting raked over coals by VAMC doctors.

    Shameful! But THIS is not a NORMAL PTSD-type crime.

  • RB aka Spirit Warrior Woman Aug 31, 2011

    justrob - "Was this soldier's PTSD actually diagnosed & documented by a current treating physician?"

    Interesting question.

    In order to stick in court, I'd think it would have had to be actually diagnosed by a licensed physician, psychologist or psychiatrist.

  • mspatag Aug 31, 2011

    Oh BOO HOO, my sympathy for him is as real as his remorse. If he is remorseful it's that he got arrested.
    the dixiedarling, I know it's hard to look at the picture of the little angel. But, maybe it will help people remember how vulnerable our children, and that there are MONSTERS everywhere, that can only hurt those that are defenceless and smaller than them selves. When you see a picture of a child that has been molested or murdered, Thank God,that it's not your child and give your child the love this little Angel didn't receive from those that were supposed to protect her.

  • robjustrob Aug 31, 2011

    Was this soldier's PTSD actually diagnosed & documented by a current treating physician? Or is it enough for a vet to make the dx on his own these days? Forty years ago, psychiatry had no protocol whatsoever for patients who attempted suicide & failed. They didn't have the wits to tell families to remove weapons from the household when a family member made an attempt. My only guess is that the psychiatrists either have no clue as to how to involve and advise the family in the treatment of PTSD or they just plain don't know how many of these ticking time bombs are walking around in our society untreated. Does the military screen these soldiers upon ETS? Do they know how many tortured minds they are releasing into civilian life or has HIPPA hamstrung them with their patient privacy issues? And yes, where was mommy while she knew this man was so dangerous? How could she leave him alone for even a minute with such a precious little child as this? I revile this act as the rest of you.