Riley Ann Sawyers
|Riley Ann Sawyers|
Riley Ann Sawyers
March 11, 2005|
|Died||July 24, 2007
Cause of death
Riley Ann Sawyers (March 11, 2005 - July 24, 2007) was a two-year-old girl from Mentor, Ohio, who was beaten to death by her mother and stepfather, and whose body was subsequently discovered in Galveston Bay. At this point police began a nationwide effort to identify her, and was known in the press as Baby Grace while her identity was unknown. Her identity was confirmed after her paternal grandmother, Sheryl Sawyers, notified police after seeing a composite sketch of the child. The remains were positively identified through DNA testing on November 30, 2007.
Riley Ann Sawyers was born at Geauga Regional Hospital (now University Hospitals Geauga Medical Center) in Claridon Township, Geauga County, Ohio, to Robert Thomas Sawyers and Kimberly Dawn Trenor. Her mother was a sophomore at Mentor High School, and became pregnant at age fifteen. Robert Sawyers was a former student at Mentor High School, until he dropped out during his junior year. The family lived with Robert's mother Sheryl in Mentor, where Sheryl was Riley's primary caregiver. It was also during this time that Robert and Riley's mother Kimberly Trenor grew apart and were no longer a couple. They all continued to live in the same home and Riley's father began dating a woman named Catherine Priester. The two would later marry and have a son named Braden together.
In October 2006, alleging physical abuse and having filed domestic violence charges, Robert left the home and Trenor continued to live in the home with her daughter and Sheryl Sawyers until May of 2007. Trenor moved with her daughter to Spring, Texas, at the end of May 2007 to marry Royce Clyde Zeigler, Jr. The two had met while playing on the online game World of Warcraft, and they married on June 1, 2007, in Harris County, Texas. Zeigler believed Riley should be disciplined to say "Sir" and "Ma'am" to adults, and that corporal punishment was the best means of disciplining a child. Believing that Trenor was not properly administering the beatings herself, Zeigler took over.
According to a videotaped confession and signed affidavit from Trenor, on July 24, 2007, she and Zeigler beat Riley with two leather belts and held her head underwater in the bathtub. She also said Zeigler picked her daughter up by her hair, threw her across the room, which caused her to slam her head into the tile floor. Finally Riley, hurt from the beating, was unable to stand when ordered to do so. “She didn’t have control of her legs,” Trenor said. When they realized Riley was dead, Trenor and Zeigler went to Wal-Mart to purchase a plastic Sterilite storage container, wrapped Riley in garbage bags, and stuffed her corpse inside the container. They kept the container in a storage shed for approximately two months before dumping it into Galveston Bay, where it was discovered by local fisherman Robert Wayne Spinn on October 29, 2007. A coroner discovered skull fractures and the investigation proceeded as a homicide.
Shortly before Thanksgiving in 2007, Zeigler attempted suicide via overdosing on blood pressure medication and prescribed anti-depressants. He left a suicide note stating: "My wife is innocent of the sins I committed". However, he later claimed during his trial that he was in another room of the house when Riley had died, so could not have been guilty. Trenor and Zeigler eventually took responsibility for Riley Ann's death, initially charged with injury to a child and tampering with evidence. Trenor said that the death was accidental—"a case of discipline that went too far." On January 14, 2008, the cremated remains of Riley Ann Sawyers were turned over to her family in Ohio, after a Texas judge ruled that samples taken during the autopsy would be sufficient evidence for trial.
Trenor was convicted of capital murder on February 2, 2009. It took the jury 90 minutes to reach a verdict. Trenor received a life sentence with the possibility of parole in 38 years. Zeigler also faced charges of capital murder as well as evidence tampering. On November 6, 2009, he was convicted of capital murder and received an automatic sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole, as the state did not seek the death penalty.
Zeigler, Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) #01605580, is currently incarcerated in the Powledge Unit. Previously he was incarcerated at the Allred Unit. Trenor, TDCJ# 01549893, is incarcerated in the Mountain View Unit. Her first parole eligibility date is November 24, 2047.
- Associated Press (November 5, 2007). "'Baby Grace' Sketch Unleashes Wave of Tips". ABC News.
- Sara McDonald (November 30, 2007). "DNA confirms Sawyers is ‘Baby Grace’". Galveston Daily News.
- Harvey Rice (November 30, 2007). "DNA test confirms Riley Sawyers is Baby Grace". Houston Chronicle.
- Sean Callebs (November 26, 2007). "Police: Mother describes beating of 2-year-old, hiding her body". CNN.
- Harvey Rice (December 3, 2007). "Riley's death fits 'stepparent syndrome' mold". Houston Chronicle.
- Terri Langford (December 2, 2007). "How did Riley's mom end up here?". Houston Chronicle.
- Juan A. Lozano (November 6, 2009). "Stepfather convicted in death of 'Baby Grace'". Associated Press.
- M.R. Kropko (January 15, 2008). "Ashes of 'Baby Grace' Flown to Ohio". ABC News.
- "Mom found guilty of murder in 'Baby Grace' case - CNN.com". CNN. February 3, 2009. Retrieved May 19, 2010.
- "Offender Search." -- Enter "Royce Zeigler". TDCJ ID 01605580. Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on September 23, 2010.
- "Offender Search." -- Enter "Royce Zeigler". Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on January 22, 2010.
- "Offender Search." -- Enter "Kimberly Trenor ". Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on January 22, 2010.