Jury deadlocks in toddler murder trial

Wiliey Foster

ALPINE, Calif. — An Alpine man charged in the death of his girlfriend’s toddler was back behind bars Thursday and waiting to see how his murder case will proceed after a jury was deadlocked and unable to reach a verdict following a nearly three-week trial and more than three days of deliberations.

A judge declared a mistrial Wednesday in the case of 28-year-old Wiliey Kevin Foster, who still stands accused of second-degree murder and assault on a child under 8 years old in connection with the 2016 death of 18-month-old Leah Brown-Meza. Foster and the girl’s then-21-year-old mother, Lillie Golden Brown, were arrested days after Leah was found dead on Dec. 6, 2016, inside the motor home the couple shared on his mother’s property in Alpine.

The San Diego County Medical Examiner’s Office ruled Leah’s death a homicide by blunt force trauma. She was found to have a burned foot and a broken arm in addition to the deadly head injuries.

Brown was initially charged with three felony counts of child endangerment and has since pleaded guilty to at least one of those counts, with her sentencing set for later this month.

Jurors in Foster’s case deadlocked despite have the option to find him guilty of the lesser crime of involuntary manslaughter. Following the declaration of mistrial Wednesday in El Cajon Superior Court, Foster was sent back to jail, where he’s been in custody since December 2016 in lieu of $2 million bail.

A retrial on the two felony charges was tentatively scheduled for April 16, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Opening statements began Feb. 5 and the jury got the case Friday. During trial, Deputy District Attorney Chantal de Mauregne told jurors that Foster killed Leah, while his defense attorney argued the girl’s drug-addicted mother was responsible.

Brown testified against Foster during, saying she went out with her cousin the night before the girl was found dead, when Foster was taking care of her, according to the Union-Tribune.

But defense attorney Gretchen von Helms said Leah suffered a variety of injuries over several days before her death, pinning those injuries on Brown or other people who had access to the infant. The defense attorney urged jurors to remember that two doctors testified Leah’s fatal injuries might have been caused by accident during the same incident in which she broke her arm when she fell down the stairs of the motor home.

Foster is due back in court next week, when Judge Robert Amador is expected to schedule the retrial.