Houston_Prosecutors said Monday they will ask a grand jury to consider capital murder charges against the couple accused of killing the toddler nicknamed "Baby Grace" when her unidentified body was found washed ashore along Galveston Bay.
Galveston County District Attorney Kurt Sistrunk said in a statement he would ask the grand jury to consider the charges on Wednesday. The decision was first reported by The Galveston County Daily News.
Sistrunk declined to tell the newspaper whether he would seek the death penalty against Kimberly Dawn Trenor, 19, or her 24-year-old husband, Royce Clyde Zeigler II. But an attorney for the toddler's father, Robert Sawyers, and paternal grandmother, Sheryl Sawyers, said the family was concerned about the possibility of Trenor being put to death.
"Kimberly was like a daughter to (Sheryl Sawyers)," the attorney, Laura DePledge, told the newspaper. "Asking for the death penalty is almost like a double whammy. The family has some reservations."
Trenor and Zeigler are accused of beating and torturing Trenor's daughter, 2-year-old Riley Ann Sawyers, to death July 24 in a disciplinary session that veered out of control. Trenor said they hid the girl's body in a shed for two months before dumping it in Galveston Bay.
Riley's identity was a mystery for weeks until a police artist's rendering of the girl caught the attention of her paternal grandmother in Ohio. She called police to say the girl could be her granddaughter, whom she hadn't seen in months.
That call led police to Trenor and Zeigler, who were living in Spring, about 75 miles north of Galveston.
Trenor and Zeigler were jailed Monday on charges of injury to a child and tampering with evidence. Bail was set at $350,000 each.
Trenor's attorney, Tommy Stickler Jr., said he was disappointed but not surprised to hear Sistrunk would pursue capital murder charges because he does not believe the facts of the case merit that charge.
Zeigler's attorney, Neal Davis III, did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.
According to Stickler, Zeigler wanted Trenor to spank Riley with a belt when she failed to say things like "please" and "yes sir" or "no sir." Zeigler didn't believe Trenor was doing it, however, because the 2-year-old's behavior wasn't changing.
The fatal beating happened after Zeigler stayed home from work to make sure his wife was following his discipline plan, Stickler said.
Davis has said Trenor's credibility will become an issue once all the facts are examined.
In a statement to authorities, Trenor said the girl was beaten with leather belts, had her head held underwater in a bathtub and then was thrown across a room, her head slamming into a tile floor.
An autopsy revealed that Riley suffered three skull fractures, but the cause of death has not been determined.