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Raleigh man gets life sentence for murder of infant stepdaughter

Posted September 13, 2011

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— After a jury failed to reach a unanimous decision, a Superior Court judge sentenced a Raleigh man Tuesday to life in prison without parole for the 2009 murder and sexual assault of his 10-month-old stepdaughter.

The six men and six women spent almost 5½ hours Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning trying to decide whether Joshua Andrew Stepp should get a life or death sentence in the case. They thought they had reached a decision on a life sentence late Monday, but Judge Osmond Smith ordered jurors to continue deliberating after finding that at least one indicated that she had voted for the death penalty.

The decision on sentencing in a capital case must be unanimous. Otherwise, a mistrial is declared, and the defendant automatically receives a life sentence.

Prosecutors asked Smith to hold off on declaring a sentencing mistrial on Monday, saying jurors hadn't deliberated the case long enough.

The forewoman of the jury told Smith Monday that she didn't think jurors could agree on a sentence, but when the jury returned Tuesday morning, she told the judge that they would make another effort at consensus. They deliberated for another two hours Tuesday before declaring an impasse and defaulting to the life sentence.

Juror John Moore of Raleigh said jurors gave "full consideration" to the case before giving up on reaching a unanimous decision on sentencing.

"People were very committed to their positions, and there was no way you were ever going to sway that," Moore said.

Wake County Assistant District Attorney Adam Moyers said he respected the jury's efforts.

"To get 12 people to agree is a high bar," Moyers said. "That's the way it should be."

Joshua Stepp in court Deadlocked jury leads to life sentence for child killer

The jury convicted Stepp, 28, last Thursday of first-degree murder and sex offense of a child in the Nov. 8, 2009, beating death of Cheyenne Yarley.

Prosecutors said Stepp attempted to rape Cheyenne, beat her to death and then lied to her mother, emergency responders and police about what happened.

Stepp, who testified on his own behalf, admitted to killing Cheyenne, although he said he didn't know why he did. He has denied the accusations of sexual assault.

Defense attorneys argued that his actions amounted to second-degree murder, because he was using prescription painkillers and alcohol to treat undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder resulting from his tour of duty in Iraq, where he saw members of his platoon killed by a roadside bomb.

Stepp will appeal the conviction, defense attorney Tommy Manning said, noting that he remains convinced the case was one of second-degree murder.

Still, Manning said he was pleased with the sentencing.

"We thought this was the correct result. It just took forever to get there," he said.

144 Comments

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  • Lead by Example Sep 15, 2011

    All 12 jurors should have given him the death penalty. Oh well, hopefully he'll never get released from prison.

  • ashleesboss Sep 14, 2011

    That breaks my heart for this child and her mother.. it would be ironic if the same thing happened to him...

  • fayncmike Sep 14, 2011

    ""Uh, the old, "love it or leave it" went out in the sixties. It didn't make any sense then and it sure doesn't now."-fayncmike

    To some it makes a world of sense. For some, they would rather sit around and complain and criticize those who have a different opinion. I hear the islands are really nice!
    chattycat"

    And to some the concept that the world is flat makes a lot of sense; so?

  • familyfour Sep 14, 2011

    I also have a bad feeling left with me about this.....as in another story, where the child was beaten, I wonder if the mother was abused, as well, and if so....how they do not hold some accountability here.

    Yep, you all have heard my story. Yes, I have been on the abused side of the fence.....a child is what made me jump it. I wasn't brave enough to save myself, but for her, I'd have done anything....and still will. My child will never be in any danger that I am aware of, and that I have any control over. It is just that simple. No man is worth my child's life.

  • chattycat Sep 14, 2011

    "Uh, the old, "love it or leave it" went out in the sixties. It didn't make any sense then and it sure doesn't now."-fayncmike

    To some it makes a world of sense. For some, they would rather sit around and complain and criticize those who have a different opinion. I hear the islands are really nice!

  • fayncmike Sep 14, 2011

    "The needle would be too quick, too painless. I suspect what the gen. population will do to this man will be more fitting. (Assuming this is going to make it through...LOL...)
    Lily0809"

    Why not just have him torn apart by rabid baboons?

    I don't think you people have much of a concept of the moral makeup of the herd time prison population. He'd be more likely to hear something like, "Do it once for me."

  • fayncmike Sep 14, 2011

    "
    Sorry buddy, it has already been decided. The death penalty is not going away. If you feel that you are living with so many uncivilized folks around you, I suggest moving to a country that does not have the death penalty as an option. Good luck!
    chattycat"

    Uh, the old, "love it or leave it" went out in the sixties. It didn't make any sense then and it sure doesn't now.

  • familyfour Sep 14, 2011

    uuuuuuuuuuuuugggggggggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!

    As always.....moderation with hesitation and calculation and discrimination.

    Just like our people, just like our judicial system.

    At the very least, we are consistent. Horribly consistent.

    :-(

    the only thing wrong with the death penalty is that it takes to long, has too many rules, and is not used enough.

    If you are man enough to worship something you can only believe in......

    Be man enough to protect yourself and your children and the rest of your people while you are here amongst the living!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • taskmaster27858 Sep 14, 2011

    Death Really.. Really...Do yall people that agree on death even know about how they treat immates on death row. They are isolated from other immates and get more privilege, like watching tv, better food, and more time with there love ones.. And he would probably be on death row for 20 + years.. And death is the easy way out. But with LIFE he is able to get but t rape everyday, which probably already happen last night and today.. And he get to live with what happen every day in prision till he dies. IF all i saw in my future was a penis in my anus, i think suicide will be the answer for me.. LIFE is definatly more punish for a person then Death is..

  • familyfour Sep 14, 2011

    God will not save any of us....he didn't save the child.....

    He gave us brains to use....and to correct problematic situations with......

    It is our job to do so properly.

    We are FAILING.

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