April 27, 2007, 7:21PM
© 2007 The Associated Press
FORT WORTH , Texas — A man was convicted Friday of injury to a child in the death of his 3-year-old foster daughter nearly two years ago.
Timothy Warner, 31, of Arlington faces up to life in prison but is also eligible for probation. The punishment phase began Friday afternoon.
In closing arguments, defense attorney Joe Johnson Jr. tried to persuade the jury that someone other than Warner could have killed Sierra Odom in 2005, saying his client's wife was the last person to see the toddler alive.
"He was trying to protect his wife when he blamed it on himself," Johnson said in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Friday online edition.
Earlier in the week prosecution witnesses testified that Warner took Sierra's body to an Arlington hospital in August 2005, saying she had been hurt in a car crash. Warner changed his story several times before he was arrested in her death.
Tarrant County Sheriff's Detective Danny Nutt, formerly an Arlington police detective, said Sierra had bruises and injuries "from head to toe" in various stages of healing.
Warner told detectives that Sierra fell and hit her head, but he then admitted to faking the car wreck to cover up her injuries, the Dallas Morning News reported in its online edition Friday.
Two officers testified that Warner told them he hit Sierra several days earlier after she smeared feces on a wall. He also said he was upset when Sierra hit one of his biological children the night she died.
Warner admitted to grabbing her by the face and pushing her into the bookcase, where she struck her head, according to police testimony.
Instead of taking the girl to a hospital immediately, Warner told police, he and his wife held the girl in front of fan, performed CPR and put her in a bathtub filled with hot water before staging the auto accident.
The deaths of Sierra and two other children in foster homes run by private agencies has caused lawmakers to question where to draw the line on outsourcing the care of Texas' abused and neglected youngsters.
The Senate approved a bill Monday that would scale back the privatization efforts to a small pilot program and would keep state caseworkers involved in decisions about foster care placements and service plans. The bill is pending in a House committee.