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Child's Beating Death Uncovered CPS Failures: Mother's Boyfriend On Trial

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - Testimony will resume Friday morning in the trial of a man accused of beating his girlfriend's 4-year-old daughter to death.

Charles Phifer
Charles Phifer

Charles Wayne Phifer, 36, is charged with capital murder and is facing a possible life prison sentence without the possibility of parole in the beating death of Leiliana Wright.

Leiliana Wright
Leiliana Wright (credit: Alisa & Craig Clakley)

Wright's death became a scathing indictment of systemic Child Protective Services failures.

Her paternal grandparents had reported suspicions of abuse months earlier after noticing bruising, but nothing was done.

By the time paramedics arrived at the family's Grand Prairie home in March of 2016, it was too late to save Leiliana from the people who should have been protecting her.

Her mother, Jeri Quezada, pleaded guilty to felony injury to a child charges last year. She is awaiting sentencing.

"If I testify truthfully, then I will be sentenced to 50 years in prison," Quezada told jurors Thursday while dressed in a jail inmate jumpsuit.

Jeri Quezada
Jeri Quezada (CBS11)

She told jurors she and Phifer used heroin on the night that Leiliana was fatally beaten. Later, her mother, Adeline Carr, would tell jurors she had no knowledge of her daughter's drug use and angrily told reporters to "get out of her face" when asked if she was aware of the abuse.

Earlier, Carr showed no emotion as she spoke about the 4-year-old beaten to death in her own home... a death in which investigators said her mother is at best complicit in protecting her abuser.

Grand Prairie Police Sgt. Brad Makovy shared with jurors a portion is his interview with Quezada concerning her treatment of Leiliana, including "how she would lose her temper and take things out on her. Talked about slapping her in the face, she had mentioned later on that she had even kicked her on several occasions as a form of discipline."

We have known for some time now that Leiliana died an awful death.

"She was severely beaten," testified Samantha Chandler, a civilian investigator with Grand Prairie Police. Her life was marked by violence and the massive failure of those tasked with keeping her safe: CPS, her mother and the man she moved into their home.

Sgt. Makovy also testified, "That's when she explains how Charles grabs her by the throat, picks her up, pushes her into the wall and begins to admonish her about throwing up, then throws her into the closet and closes the door.

According to testimony from both Quezada and Carr, the family went out to dinner and left Phifer at home to watch Leiliana. Quezada returned home and testified that she and Phifer used heroin before she inquired about her daughter.

According to police testimony, that's when Phifer told her "that the child had been hung in the closet."

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