HARRISONVILLE — A 47-year-old man accused of impregnating his daughter four times and causing the death of one of the babies was convicted of second-degree murder and other charges on Tuesday.
Jurors took about 2½ hours to convict the western Missouri man, who is not being identified to protect the identity of the daughter. He was also found guilty of six other counts, including incest, statutory rape, child endangerment and abandonment of a corpse.
The murder charge stems from the death of his daughter's third child, who did not receive medical attention after falling ill. The baby's remains were put in a plastic container and sealed inside a cooler.
Remains of the daughter's fourth child, a girl who was stillborn, also were found in a cooler on rural property belonging to the defendant's mother.
Several family members — including two of the defendant's daughters — stood, held hands and cried as the verdicts were read. The defendant appeared motionless, though tears appeared to well in his eyes.
His attorney, Janeal Matheson, told jurors in closing arguments Tuesday that there was no way of proving the child had died as the result of an illness and not Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. On Monday, a medical examiner testified there was not enough physical evidence to prove beyond a doubt that the baby had been sick and died of neglect.
"They moved around a lot, suffered financially, and it was difficult to do things most of us expect," Matheson said. "Those things do not make (the defendant) a murderer."
The defendant, his wife and their four daughters spent several years living in a small recreational vehicle, often moving to places where the defendant could find work.
The 20-year-old victim, the second-oldest of the defendant's four daughters, testified Monday that her dad first molested her when she was 5 years old.
In tearful testimony marked by her shaking and occasional loud sobbing, the victim told of how her father helped deliver her babies, and in three cases, helped bury them.
She had her first baby, a daughter, when she was 14, and buried the child in Oklahoma four months later after the girl fell off a couch and hit her head.
Her second child, a 4-year-old boy, was born when she was 16. The next year she had another son, whose death from an illness led to the murder charge.
Prosecutors allege the boy could have been saved at a hospital but that the father refused to get medical attention for him.
"I stayed up with him for two nights and then dozed off for five seconds, and then I woke up and he was dead in my arms," the daughter testified Monday. She said her father would not seek medical care for the baby because he "didn't want to go to the hospital to see his son with hoses hanging out of him."
A year later she had a daughter who was stillborn.