Local News

Defendant: Murder Charge 'Huge Misunderstanding'

Posted July 9, 2007 12:41 p.m. EDT
Updated July 9, 2007 5:01 p.m. EDT

— Bond was denied Monday to a Spring Lake man accused of killing his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter.

Antonio Byrd, 24, is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Miracle McLean. Byrd, the live-in boyfriend of Miracle's mother, rushed the unconscious girl to the Anderson Creek Fire Department station on July 2, and she was later pronounced dead at Womack Army Medical Center.

Investigators said Byrd claimed Miracle drowned, but an autopsy determined she died of blunt force trauma.

A belt, a bed comforter, an adult T-shirt, a child's plastic belt and a child's pair of pants were among 10 items seized from a mobile home near Spring Lake where Byrd and the toddler's family lived, according to a search warrant.

Byrd made no statement during a brief court appearance Monday morning, but his attorney said Byrd plans to made a videotaped statement to authorities within the next few days.

Defense attorney Jesse Jones said Byrd is very emotional about the situation and continues to maintain his innocence.

"He just said he didn't do it, (that) this is a huge misunderstanding," Jones said. "It's kind of hard to talk to him because he's always crying."

Jones refused to discuss the circumstances of the toddler's death.

Byrd has lived with Miracle's mother, Sheteka McDougald, for more than a year, according to family members.

Christine McDougald, Sheteka McDougald's mother, said she believes Byrd is innocent. He would never have intentionally hurt Miracle or her 3-year-old sister, Zahane, she said.

"He treated them like his kids. That's what he said, 'These are my kids,' and he loved them," Christine McDougald said. "In my heart, I don't believe that (he killed her). Accidents happen, and nobody was there (at the home) but them."

Sheteka McDougald and Sherron McLean, Miracle's father, didn't attend Monday's court hearing. McLean lives in Greensboro, and Christine McDougald said her daughter is stunned by the events of the past week.

"She's lost her whole family," she said. "When you love somebody, you love him, and it's hard for her to believe that he did something intentional to her child."

Zahane McLean is in foster care, relatives said.

A probable cause hearing is scheduled for Byrd on July 17.