Jury finds Center woman guilty of murdering baby

Shakeitha Cartwright (Source: Center Police Department)
Shakeitha Cartwright (Source: Center Police Department)
Keilly Hoyt
Keilly Hoyt

CENTER, TX (KTRE) - A Shelby County jury has found a Center woman guilty of killing her five-month-old baby girl.

The jury took just over an hour to deliberate. Shakeitha Cartwright is accused of beating her 5-month-old baby girl to death in January. She receives an automatic life sentence without parole.

"The law stands for justice, but here, there's no justice for 5-month-old baby Keilly Hoyt," Shelby County District Attorney Ken Florence said. "It was easier to identify which bones in her little body were not broken than those that were. Her 20 little ribs were broken, started healing, were broken, and started healing again before she simply could not take it any more."

Florence went on to list Keilly's three skull fractures and the fact that the baby's back was broken to the point that the separation between the vertebrae was clearly visible on the X-rays.

"Her injuries were so numerous, so horrific ... I simply cannot go on," Florence said.

In response to questions from the community asking why the state didn't seek the death penalty in this case, Florence cited Berry v. State (2007) and said the death penalty wasn't an available option in this case.

"Because Ms. Cartwright murdered only her own child, and she has no prior criminal record, the state cannot prove that she will be a future danger to others, which is required to impose a sentence of death," Florence said. "The reasoning behind the case is that Cartwright will not have access to potential child victims while serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole."

Defense attorney Rudy Velasquez never questioned anyone on Tuesday. The only witnesses that testified for the defense were Cartwright's boyfriend Ellis Hoyt and father Marlon Cartwright. They were questioned last Friday.

Cartwright, 30, of Center faces life in prison. Police allege that on Jan.16, 2013, 5-month-old Keilly Hoyt died from multiple injuries she suffered from abuse by Cartwright.

According to the affidavit, Center police arrived at the home, located on the 1200 block of Shelbyville Street, and saw Cartwright on the front porch holding 5-month-old Keilly Hoyt. EMS took Keilly to the Center hospital while police spoke to Cartwright.

The affidavit continues stating that Cartwright said she woke up with Keilly at 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. She said she went to check on Keilly at 9:20 a.m., and saw her lying on her stomach in the bassinet.

EMS then called police and said the child had bruising which looked suspicious. An officer arrived at the hospital and saw the baby had a bruised left eye, multiple small puncture marks consistent with bite marks, signs of dehydration, and bruises all over her body.

The officer reported seeing a large bruised area on the back of the child in the buttock area and wounds on both sides of Keilly's buttocks, as well as bruises on the soles of her feet. An X-ray showed Keilly had multiple broken bones, including both femurs, both forearms, both shoulders, and her jaw.

At the home, detectives searched the bedroom and found that the bassinet Keilly had been sleeping in appeared to have a vomit stain. The padding had some type of stain on it and was not covered by a fitted sheet. A detective found a fitted sheet in a pile of dirty clothes and saw a red stain on it which matched the stain on the padding. The detective also found several blankets and clothing which appeared to have blood stains.

Detectives later interviewed Cartwright, who admitted to losing her temper and picking up Keilly and shaking her, according to the affidavit. She also said she had picked Keilly up and forcibly threw her into the child safety seat in the living room, according to the affidavit. She also said she did not know how Keilly suffered the broken arms and legs. She did admit to biting Keilly on the feet, hitting her on the arms, slapping her in the mouth, and squeezing her shoulders together, according to the affidavit.

Officials removed three other children living in Cartwright's home. CPS spokesperson Sherri Pulliam said an 11-year-old girl, 9-year-old girl, and an 18-month-old boy also lived in the home on the 1200 block of Shelbyville Street. Pulliam said there has been no history of abuse reported to CPS before the incident with Keilly.

Florence started his closing by thanking the jury for their service.

Florence also added that he is sorry for having to show the jury some of the pictures.

Florence said he waived opening statements because he learned about the case they did.

"If I dumped it on all of y'all at once, it would have lost y'all," Florence said. "I had to build it up."

Florence showed the jury a picture of baby Keily Hoyt and said, "this is who we are talking about."

"We won't know exactly how things transpired that morning, But I think she knew at 5 a.m. that the baby was dead," Florence said.

Florence would go through the first three witnesses he called to testify saying that all three of them talked as if Cartwright didn't really care about the child.

"Her own cousin talked to her on the dispatch call, and said it was like a matter of fact," Florence said.

Florence then pointed out the statements made by the doctor that was at the hospital with the baby.

"Dr. Bianco said this is the worst case in his 40 years of practice," Florence said. "That is a big statement. This is the worst case I have seen as well in my 25 years."

Florence said that she has been lying. Florence would state that all the jury needs to do is look at the video statements.

Florence would point out how at first Cartwright would focus blame on her other kids but said she finally admitted that there is no way the kids could have done it and it would have had to have been her.

Florence said that it is easy to see that Cartwright beat the baby and tried to suffocate it with a shirt that was covered with blood.

While stating these questions, Cartwright could be seen shaking her head in disapproval.

Florence said that Cartwright said she was playing with the baby.

"Really, playing with the baby," Florence said. "It was a nightmare for Keilly."

Florence would go on and say he did not believe the heater fell on the baby as earlier stated.

"In my mind, that looks more like a curling iron," Florence said.

Florence would go on and say that Keilly suffered horrible, horrible torture.

Florence would continue and say, "just when you think it couldn't get worse,"  he would then add more evidence to the jury.

Florence would move onto the x-rays and say that the jury needs to look closely at them to see how horrifying these injuries were. Florence also said that the jury needs to pay attention to the report that stated Cartwright is not psychotic and was capable of standing trial.

Florence moved on to when he questioned Hoyt and said it is easy to see he did not kill the baby with his quick response and how it never changed. Florence also pointed out how Hoyt told investigators in the video recording that he thought while being questioned that the officers where only doing their jobs.

"She admitted squeezing the baby so hard it would use the restroom," Florence said. "She admitted to breaking the arms of the baby by squeezing so hard. She admitted to fracture the skull."

Florence also pointed out other quotes, where Cartwright said, "I know what I was doing" and where she said I was mad and wanted to do something and she was there." Florence also read the transcript where Cartwright said, " I knew it could happen," and "I didn't think anything about that [killing the baby]."

Florence also pointed out that Cartwright cared more about herself and less about the baby.

"She was just being mean," Florence said as he closed his arguments.

Rudy Velasquez was then given an opportunity to address the jury.

Velasquez started by claiming that in the police interview process, Cartwright was attacked by three different officers.

Velaquez pointed out how several times in the interview detectives would cut her off and say, "I don't want to hear it right now."

"They literally beat her down," Velasquez said.

Velasquez would say that in a part of the video not shown to the jury, but available to them in the deliberation room, that detectives would come in while Cartwright was writing her statement and tell her what to write. Velasquez also said that in that tape jurors could see that she was crying, a statement that would differ from the investigators that took the stand.

Velaquez also pointed out how the doctors said it is possible that the baby died after it rolled over in bed.

Velasquez would also say that the jury needs to look at the picture that Cartwright's father took of the baby the day before.

Velaquez then attacked Center Police and said that they were all reading a "script" that said they were supposed to say, "she showed no remorse."

Velaquez asked the jurors that if a tragedy happened to them would they be hysterical or would they go into shock.

"Some people cry and scream," Velasquez said. "And others go into shock."

Velasquez  then told the jurors that they heard Cartwright's innocence when she said over 50 times in two interviews, "I did not kill my baby."

"The state has not shown Cartwright killed her baby," Velasquez said. "What the state has shown is that the baby had serious injuries."

Florence would then counter what Velasquez said by stating that the medical examiner Ms. Ventura said that the skull injury was enough evidence. Florence also said that Mr. Cartwright's picture could not have been from the night before because everyone in the jury has seen the pictures of the mourning the baby died.

Florence also said that he never asked a witness if she showed no remorse.

"I stayed away from that, "Florence said. "I asked about lack of emotion. Only one witness said, 'no remorse.'"

Florence also said that when Cartwright said she could hear Keilly gasping for air as she held her at 5 am was the baby actually taking it's last breath.

Florence would then state that in his mind it was capital murder because there is no doubt that it is obvious that she knew what she was doing when she killed the baby.

Florence said that they were unable to pursue the death penalty because the state law says that since Cartwright has had no other incidents with the law that if she is put in prison for life there is no chance of her harming anyone else.

"Although in this case, there is enough there to look for the death penalty,' Florence said.

Florence also said that there has been more tears cried in the courtroom by other people than by Cartwright.

The jury was given the case to deliberate at 11:08 a.m. They returned with the verdict at 12:23 p.m. Several of the jurors could be seen crying when they came back with the guilty verdict.

"I believe the totality of the evidence would cause that result," Florence said. "I've gone through all those emotions in the months I have prepared for this trial."

"We have a dead baby, and we have three siblings that lost their mother," Velasquez said. "We have a family that lost their daughter, so needless to say, it's been very difficult for all the parties involved."

Cartwright declined to comment as she was escorted out of the courtroom. However, her father, Marlon Hoyt stopped to say that he didn't think the verdict was fair.

When asked if Cartwright said anything to him, Marlon Hoyt said, "No. Just 'take care of my babies.'"

Florence said crimes like the murder of Keilly Hoyt can prevented in the future if people get the word out about the Emergency Infant Care Provider option under Texas law. According to state law, a parent can drop an infant off at an Emergency Infant Care Provider like a hospital, fire station, or police station with no questions asked or criminal charges filed.

"The Texas Legislature enacted this law to avoid cases like this," Florence said. " If a parent feels he or she can't take it anymore, there is an option. That option was available to Shakeitha Cartwright. Keilly could remain alive in a loving, adoptive home, and Cartwright would not be spending the rest of her natural life, without the possibility of parole, in prison."

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