Closing arguments conclude in Stepp case

Stepp in court

September 6, 2011 3:15:14 PM PDT
Attorneys concluded their closing arguments Tuesday in the Joshua Stepp murder trial and the judge dismissed the jury.

Stepp, an Iraq war veteran, is accused of sexually assaulting and murdering his stepdaughter.

Defense attorneys say they know their client murdered 10-month-old Cheyenne Yarley, but they say Stepp did not intend to kill her and he didn't rape her.

"There was no rape in this case," Defense Attorney Terry Aldford said during his closing argument. "There was no sex offense in this case."

Stepp is charged with first-degree murder and sexual offense of a child. Authorities believe the crimes happened while he babysat Yarley inside is south Raleigh apartment in November 2009.

Alford told the jury his client was guilty of second-degree murder but nothing else.

"He's gotta pay for what he did," Alford added. "What we're asking you is not to make him pay for what he didn't do in this case."

Alford said Stepp was suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and was self-medicating using alcohol and drugs that night, calling into question his mental capacity.

Prosecutors painted a different picture.

"What shows his competency more than his deception?" asked Prosecutor Boz Zellinger during his closing argument.

Zellinger told the jury Stepp was a liar and said the circumstantial evidence, especially drops of Yarley's blood found inside Stepp's underwear, point to his guilt.

"Ladies and gentlemen, you can't explain away these stains," Zellinger said. "This is a brutal and vicious killing."

The jury is scheduled to return to court at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday. The judge will then give them their instruction and deliberations will begin.

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