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Pa. woman convicted in toddler's starving death

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(CBS/AP) ERIE, Pa. - A Pennsylvania woman will spend the rest of her life in prison for starving her 14-month old daughter to death and hiding her body in a suitcase.

In three hours Thursday, a jury convicted Tania Coleman of first-degree murder in the death of her daughter, Alayja.

The toddler's body was found in the suitcase in a pile of trash on the street last May by an Erie firefighter responding to an unrelated call.

Prosecutors say Coleman starved her daughter and withheld medical care because she was the "runt" and didn't fit into her family. The defense claimed Alayja had medical problems that kept her from eating.

The Erie Times-News reports District Attorney Jack Daneri, who prosecuted the case with Chief Deputy District Attorney Elizabeth Hirz, said they were pleased with the verdict.

"This was a child who, by no fault of her own, was starved to death," Daneri said.

Coleman's defense attorney vowed an appeal, saying the evidence did not support a plot to kill her daughter, but that she was an overwhelmed single parent who negligently failed to get her daughter medical help.

"This is a classic, classic example of failure to thrive. Combine that with an overwhelmed mother and you may have tragedy," he said. "You don't have murder."

Formal sentencing for Coleman is scheduled for May 17.

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May 27, 2011 - Baby found dead in suitcase, Pa. mom charged with homicide

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