Jury deliberates in toddler murder trial

19-month-old Devarion Gross

August 18, 2010 9:41:00 AM PDT
A jury began deliberating Wednesday in the trial of a mother accused of killing her son.

Sherita McNeil of Garner is charged with killing 19-month-old Devarion Gross in November 2008 and then hiding his body inside a closet in her home.

The jury heard closing arguments Tuesday and began deliberating Wednesday after receiving instructions from the judge.

McNeil's attorney, Bryan Collins, told jurors Tuesday that she did not intentionally kill her son, but she did hide his body.

"This did not happen to Poodie on October the 4 or October the 5," Collins told the court during his closing argument. "This is evidence of what happens when you conceal the body, so find her guilty of that."

Investigators believe McNeil abused Devarion for several weeks before killing him and stuffing his body in a plastic bin.

"He wanted his mama and for 6 weeks, he lay rotting and decomposing, while his mother carried on like nothing was wrong," Assistant District Attorney Melanie Shekita argued.

Prosecutors played recorded phone calls and the jury heard McNeil admit she physically abused her son because she hated him.

The defense argued the state only has circumstantial evidence.

"All these letters and phone calls and suspicion of abuse used in this case is to make you think that Sherita McNeil is a murderer," Collins said. "They can't prove there was a murder, so they try to convince you she is a murderer and hope you don't understand the difference."

If convicted of first degree murder, McNeil could spend the rest of her life in prison.

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