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Georgia Supreme Court upholds man’s murder verdict

POSTED: April 23, 2014 12:26 a.m.

The Supreme Court of Georgia unanimously upheld Tuesday a Gainesville man’s convictions of malice murder and other crimes for beating to death his girlfriend’s 18-month-old daughter and physically abusing her other two children.

Stephen Clark West was sentenced to life without parole in August 2012 for the murder of Kaylee Kipp. He was also convicted of aggravated assault and cruelty to children for killing the daughter of Deanna Renee Kipp and for severely abusing Kipp’s 7-year-old and 4-year-old daughters. Deanna Kipp was convicted in a separate trial of felony murder and child cruelty and was sentenced to life plus 35 years in prison on the charges.

In November 2013, the Georgia Supreme Court upheld her convictions but remanded her case to the trial court to correct sentencing errors. She was resentenced to the same amount of time in January.

According to evidence in the case, emergency responders found Kaylee unresponsive on June 12, 2011, in her crib at the Riverside Drive apartment that her then 24-year-old mother shared with West, 22. Kaylee had been dead for hours and rigor mortis had set in, and autopsy reports showed the Gainesville girl died as a result of several blows to the head.

According to the medical examiner who performed the autopsy, Kaylee was struck at least six times in her head and face, and the bruises were consistent with human knuckle marks from a closed fist. Pooling of blood at the front of her body was consistent with being pressed face down against the pad of her crib.

Police interviewed West twice after finding Kaylee’s body and noted a number of inconsistencies in his statements. In interviews, West told police he was “probably a little drunk,” “blacked out,” and did not remember touching Kaylee, but he was “so sorry” if he did.

In his appeal, West argued the evidence was insufficient to convict him, the state improperly attacked his right to remain silent and that his trial attorney had rendered “ineffective assistance of counsel” in violation of his constitutional rights.

In its opinion, written by Chief Justice Hugh Thompson, the high court rejected all his contentions.

“The evidence was sufficient to enable any rational trier of fact to find appellant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of malice murder and cruelty to children,” the opinion read.


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