ATLANTA, Ga. (WSAV) — Kevin Johnson, a man convicted of killing his girlfriend’s 2-year-old daughter in Effingham County, will remain in prison for life with no chance of parole under an opinion today by the Supreme Court of Georgia.
Johnson argued that the evidence was insufficient to support his murder conviction, but a unanimous court found otherwise.
“Contrary to Johnson’s contention, the evidence was plainly sufficient to enable a rational trier of fact to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Johnson was guilty of the crimes of which he was convicted,” Justice Britt C. Grant wrote in an opinion on Aug. 14.
According to briefs filed in the case, beginning in September 2009, Johnson lived with Angela Rocha and her daughter, Melanie Rose Haynes, on Aspen Drive in Rincon. While Rocha worked, Johnson took care of the toddler.
The opinion lays out the facts as following:
“On February 8, 2010, Johnson called Rocha and told her that Melanie had fallen and had a bruise on her head. Rocha testified that her child appeared normal when she returned from work that evening and before she left for work the next morning. The next day, Johnson again called Rocha while she was at work. This time, he reported that Melanie was vomiting. Johnson called Rocha later that same day and told her Melanie was having trouble breathing. On Rocha’s instruction, Johnson called 911. When the ambulance arrived, an emergency medical technician found Melanie not breathing and without a heart rate. She was cold, pale and bluish. There were no signs or smells of vomit in the house or on Melanie’s breath or body. Although first responders attempted to revive Melanie, she never regained consciousness” and died at Memorial Medical Center from her injuries.
The next day, Johnson agreed to be interviewed by law enforcement officers at the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office.
He reportedly told investigators that the little girl had hit her head by falling off the sofa twice and falling in the bathtub. Two days later, Johnson was arrested and read his Miranda rights, and he again told investigators the toddler had fallen twice off the couch and in the bathtub.
But instead of saying she had hit the left side of her head in the bathtub, as he had said initially, this time he said she had hit the right side of her head.
Two weeks later, after asking to speak to a particular investigator, he told her the police had “ruined his social life.”
When asked how, he responded that he had been swinging Melanie around when she accidentally hit her head hard on an open dresser drawer.
At trial, however, Johnson said that statement had been a “complete lie” which he had told because he felt threatened and intimidated by another investigator who had a reputation “for beating people.”
By the time he testified at trial, his story was that he assumed Melanie had jumped off a dresser into a tub of balls.
Two expert witnesses testified for the State that Johnson’s explanations did not account for the severity of the child’s injuries, that her death was caused by intentionally inflicted traumatic brain injury and that it could not have been caused by an accident or simple fall.
Following his trial in February 2012, Johnson was convicted of all the charges for which he’d been indicted, including malice murder, aggravated battery resulting in disfigurement and cruelty to children. He was sentenced to life without parole.