Jury finds Whitehouse woman accused of child abuse guilty

Jury finds Whitehouse woman accused of child abuse guilty
Published: May. 19, 2023 at 10:06 AM CDT|Updated: May. 19, 2023 at 7:20 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - Closing arguments were made in the fourth day of the criminal trial of Cheryl Layne on Friday morning.

On Friday just before 5 p.m., a jury found Layne guilty of abusing her adopted son. Sentencing will be held on Tuesday at 8:30 a.m.

Layne, 46, of Whitehouse was arrested in 2019 on allegations that she physically abused one of her twin adopted sons, who were in their early teens at the time. The alleged abuse included beatings with a leather belt, whippings with archery arrows and being shoved into a wall. Thursday’s proceedings centered almost entirely on Layne’s testimony from the witness stand where she talked about her account of the events in question.

The trial continued Friday morning with the defense calling its final witness, Josh Melton, a UPS driver. Melton stated that Cheryl Layne and her family are customers, and he does not know them well personally. He said he contacted the defense after seeing coverage of the trial. Melton said that he felt an inaccurate picture was being portrayed of the children working outside without Mark Layne. Once the state took the witness, they pressed him on his absence from the previous proceedings, and his strictly professional contact with the Laynes. The defense did not question Melton further.

The state and defense then rested their case, and closing arguments began.

Prosecutors reminded the jury that the case is about whether Layne struck one of the children with an arrow or a hard object.

“This is what you’re deciding,” said Emil Mikkelsen, Smith County assistant district attorney. “Nothing else.”

The state said there’s “not a shred of evidence that the kids aren’t being truthful.” The state asked the jury why the mother of foster children would attempt to embarrass them as punishment for the boys not cleaning their room.

“When you have a child that’s adopted out of foster care, why do you choose as a way of punishment to publicly humiliate them by making them wear raggedy clothes,” Mikkelsen asked. “Why with a child who was adopted out of foster care, do you choose to make them eat trash like an orphan?”

Standing in front of the jury, Mikkelsen struck the podium multiple times with the arrow, saying the panel is the only entity that can give the children the justice they deserve.

In his closing argument, defense attorney Beau Sinclair also reminded the jury that they’re tasked only with determining if the defendant hit one of the children with an arrow or hard object, saying the state brought up other incidents to “muddy your waters.”

“There’s been a lot of misdirection here. You have to consider the evidence,” Sinclair said. “There’s been a lot of misdirection focused on these extraneous acts that occurred long after the charged event.”

The defense used the arrow as a physical demonstration as well, reinforcing their argument that if the assault truthfully occurred, it was swung only once.

“Want to see some more misdirection,” Sinclair asked as he mimicked Mikkelsen’s demonstration. “That’s not what happened. That’s misdirection.”

Sinclair said that the investigation into this incident was “flawed.” He brought up a black eye that wasn’t originally observed by a school resource officers and said they appeared later. It was argued that the case involves “angry teenagers.” The defense upheld their stance of Cheryl Layne’s innocence until close.

“Discipline is a parental choice, not a state choice. She told you how she disciplined her children. And then she had to defend herself for hours about whether she loved her children,” Sinclair said.

Closing arguments have been completed, and the jury has gone to deliberation.

The case against Cheyl Layne’s husband Mark is still pending.