Local News

Garner mom found guilty in toddler's death

Posted August 19, 2010 11:25 a.m. EDT
Updated August 19, 2010 10:15 p.m. EDT

— A jury on Thursday found a Garner woman guilty in the death of her 19-month-old son, whose body was found in a garbage bag in her bedroom closet in November 2008.

Sherita McNeil, of 1852 Spring Drive, was convicted of first-degree murder and concealing the death of DeVarion Gross. The murder conviction carries a mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole.

At least one juror cried as the judge read the verdict, but McNeil showed no emotion.

"I think that justice really got served today," juror James Powers said after the verdict was delivered. "I hope this lady will not have the privilege to ever hurt another child."

He and other jurors struggled with the picture painted by the prosecution – of a mother who could hate her child.

During two days of deliberations, jurors returned over and over to correspondence and phone calls between McNeil and Ira James, the father of her older daughter. James is in federal prison in South Carolina.

In a letter found by police and read by prosecutors, McNeil writes that "hate" is "all (she) has for" DeVarion and that she doesn't love him and "never will."

"She had opportunities to give up this child and she didn't," Powers said.

Throughout the trial, relatives and caregivers testified that they suspected DeVarion was abused over the course of his short life.

Juror Mary Brown said she was shaken by the image of DeVarion, a defenseless child, being beaten by McNeil.

"You saw the tears of the jurors," said Assistant District Attorney Melanie Shekita. "Even the judge started to cry."

McNeil showed no emotion when the verdict was read. Her defense attorney argued that DeVarion's death was an accident, caused when he fell off a couch and hit his head on the coffee table and that McNeil didn't call 911 because she was afraid Chambers could have her killed.

The boy's remains, concealed in a garbage bag, were found on Nov. 14, 2008, by relatives concerned that they hadn't seen him in weeks. His body had been covered in bleach to hide the odor. Police said the boy was last seen alive Oct. 3, 2008.

Because the remains were so decomposed, the medical examiner could not pinpoint an exact cause of death. Jurors heard from two experts, neither of whom could say definitively how DeVarion died.