Stepmother convicted for the murder of 14-month old Jurayah Smith

There has been a lot of controversy and different opinions about this case. I wanted to cover this story and lay out all the facts and statements because I believe it deserves more attention and requires discussion.

The Love Triangle

T'kia Bevily and Morris Bevily VI were newlyweds back in August of 2016. What T'kia didn't know was that her now-husband cheated on her with Dedreuna Smith and got her pregnant back in 2015. Dedreuna admitted that she wasn't sure who the father was.

Morris was aware of the pregnancy and asked the mother to get an abortion…she declined. He never let his future wife know about the baby. They were married a day after the baby was born.

Dedreuna contacted Morris when Jurayah was born. T'kia and Morris demanded a DNA test to ensure that Morris was indeed the father of Jurayah. The test came back positive.

Pictures: Jurayah Armani Smith

Source: Facebook

T'kia quickly got pregnant herself a few months after the wedding. As you can imagine it must've been quite a shock to become a stepmother while being pregnant with your own child.

Regardless, T'kia and Morris took care of Jurayah every other weekend. Close family and friends of T'kia and Morris describe their relationship with Jurayah as loving and caring.

T'kia was a registered nurse and a strong believer in Christianity. Morris Bevily was a teacher. The events took action in Claiborne County, Mississippi.

October 22nd, 2017

Of the events that occurred on October 22nd of 2017, we will never be completely sure as to what exactly happened. Morris, T'kia, and Jurayah's mother Dedreuna were in a group chat, where they would communicate about the care for the toddler. T'kia was actually the one who insisted on creating this chat because that was the only way she would allow Morris to speak to Jurayah's mother.

On Friday, October 20th, T'kia messaged Dedreuna, surprisingly not in the group chat. She left her a private message asking if she needed T'kia and Morris to take care of Jurayah for the weekend. Dedreuna responded that there was no need for that.

On October 22rd 2017 at around 5 am, Morris called Dedreuna to come to his house saying ''It's Jurayah, it’s Jurayah you have to come here''. When she arrived he was waiting for her in front of the house. Jurayah's mother later revealed in a statement: “He walked me all through the house. I asked ‘where’s Jurayah?’ and that’s when we got into the room and there she was in the crib,” said Smith. “And she was on her back and her eyes were closed and her mouth was closed. Her lips were kind of like a greenish color. You could tell she had been dead for a long time and she was cold.”

On October 22rd 2017 at around 5 am, Morris called Dedreuna to come to his house saying ''It's Jurayah, it’s Jurayah you have to come here''. When she arrived he was waiting for her in front of the house.

Jurayah's mother later revealed in a statement: “He walked me all through the house. I asked ‘where’s Jurayah?’ and that’s when we got into the room and there she was in the crib,” said Smith. “And she was on her back and her eyes were closed and her mouth was closed. Her lips were kind of like a greenish color. You could tell she had been dead for a long time and she was cold.”

There were no paramedics called before the mother's arrival. Understandably, Dedreuna was in shock and after 20-30 minutes she called her uncle and aunt and they reached out to 911.

Now, according to T'kia, she got up in the morning to get some water for Morris and checked on the toddler. That's when she found out Jurayah was not breathing, and she turned her on her back. And here one question comes to my mind, why didn't she called for paramedics? Also, she was a registered nurse, yet she didn't take any action to help the toddler whatsoever. Instead, she went to wake up Morris, who then called Dedreuna.

Dedreuna, later said in a statement, that when she entered the home, T'kia was sitting on the couch, visibly she wasn't upset while holding her own newborn baby.

The Funeral

The toddler's mother described that Jurayah's head was visibly swollen and she had a black eye.

The mother could not bare to even look at her deceased child in the casket, because ''...she just didn't look like herself, they had to put so much makeup on her to cover the bruises...’’

Understandably, Dedreuna did not want T'kia at the funeral. However, Morris claimed that he needed his wife there.

Preliminary Autopsy Report

The preliminary autopsy report was released on October 24th of 2017 and stated the cause of death as ''Multiple blunt head trauma''.

Later on, the report was posted on social media by Dedreuna, as she was demanding justice. investigators denied sharing further information about how those wounds were inflicted.

Close relatives to the mother say that she and Morris would communicate and exchange pictures and videos of Jurayah before the report came in. After the release of the report, it is claimed that Morris and T'kia blocked the mother and bashed her on Facebook.

The 18-month wait. Autopsy Backlog

After the first report was released, law enforcement waited for another year and a half for the official autopsy report. Through this period Jurayah's mother was seeking justice for her baby on social media, starting the hashtag #justiceforjurayah. Dedreuna stated: "Patience was really hard. I just had to wait it out,".

The Bevily's moved to New Orleans, Louisiana, area following Jurayah’s death. Where Morris Smith was working as a teacher.

The report came back from the Crime Lab on April 22. The case was presented to a grand jury for an indictment on the same day. "Justice is here," Smith posted on social media on April 30, after the suspects turned themselves in.

After the couple turned themselves in they were being held at the Claiborne County Detention Center. They were charged with capital murder and were each given a $1 million bond and have since been released. The Bevily's spent one week in custody, after being released they had tracking devices on them and were not allowed near children.

Dedreuna Smith was not happy with the issued bond:

“I think they need to go back to jail, honestly, I think they need to go back," said Smith. “I don’t mean to be harsh, but I think it’s unfair that they get to enjoy their family.”

The Trial

On January 29, 2021, T'kia Bevily, 28 was convicted for the murder of 14-month old Jurayah Smith back in October 2017. According to the Clarion Ledger, jurors returned their verdict after hearing five days of testimony. She was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of patrol.

Dedreuna Smith released a statement after the verdict:

"Knowing that the person responsible for the homicide of my precious Jurayah is being held accountable for their actions brings a feeling of relief over my whole family. Receiving this guilty verdict is only the start of the healing process for my family, our friends, loved ones & myself. We're grateful for the outcome and we're hopeful for the peaceful closure that this process has brought."

T'kia's mother, Audrey Smith Grey posted on Facebook, following the verdict of her daughter:

''Y’all they found my beautiful sweet baby girl guilty of Capital Murder! Talking about a terrible and tragic injustice! My baby was accused of beating a 14-month-old baby to death! My baby! But there is soooo much wrong with this story...this horrible accusation! I’ve kept quiet for the past three years and watched as the baby’s mother, family, and baby’s so-called “friends” degraded and dragged my baby’s name through the mud! Sadly, my baby was tried for Capital Murder in a small town, where everybody knows everybody.... and this educated beautiful young lady was the SOLE outsider! My poor baby! Their storyline was that she was jealous! Of what? The baby! In court, the prosecutor said that my baby girl was driven by jealousy!''

Later on in the post, she explained that T'kia requested a change of venue, which was denied by the judge. Audrey Grey also posts several videos and pictures of T'kia and Jurayah playing and laughing together.

Seeing all of the videos, and considering the fact that T'kia was denied a change of venue doesn't sit right with me. Is there actually a possibility she was wrongfully convicted?

Video of T'kia and Jurayah playing together.

Following the conviction, Audrey set up a GoFundMe for T'kia's two children. If someone wants to donate for the legal fees, they are using cashapp, because GoFundMe has a policy against legal situations. Cashapp: $istandwithkia

Jurayah's father, Morris Bevily, 30 is due to stand trial from February 1, 2021, but considering the situation, with the pandemic, it is unknown as to when it will be held. As to why they separated the couple and wanted to do their trial separately there is no information. However, it does seem a little bit weird.

Social Media's verdict.

Now, there are some rumors going around Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Friends of the mother came forward to say that Dedreuna was neglecting her child.

On Facebook, the movement ''Istandwithkia'' also shows the loving bond between the stepmother and Jurayah. Something got my attention, T'kia has more pictures and videos with Jurayah than her actual mother Dedreuna.

Photos of T’kia with Jurayah

Source: Instagram

Later on, in a statement, Dedreuna said she has no comment on T'kia Bevily the stepmother. But she knows what she would say to her if they were face to face:

“You had a chance to say you didn’t want my daughter around, you had plenty enough time to say, ‘Come and get her,’” Smith said. “All I want to know is why? What was the reason when you could have just told me to come and get her?”

Now, I know that pictures can lie, but seeing them and looking at the videos, I honestly didn't see a jealous stepmother. T'kia was taking care of Jurayah as she was her own child. This is my personal opinion, as to what was happening behind doors I do not know.

Apparently, some of Dedreuna's friends had created now-deleted Facebook pages. Where they would state how many people were involved in taking care of Jurayah, hours before her death. Dedreuna actually started to harass her friends to take the pages down. Rumors are, the mother didn't want her friends to testify or talk to investigators. Suspicious, right?

Timeline of events

On Instagram, the trending #Istandwithkia revealed some interesting facts. In a post titled ''Timeline of events. October 20, 2017'' there is information about the child's whereabouts before it was in the care of the Bevily's. Interestingly enough, this information wasn't available on any website covering the case. I am linking the post, but here is the full text:

''Jurayah goes from biological mother, Dedreuna Smith to Danielle Skinner, Morris's (the father) cousin. She is transported without a car seat or baby bag. At some point, Danielle is unable to get Jurayah to stop crying so she contacts T'kia so that she can calm her down. This is T'kia's first time being made aware that the toddler is with Danielle and is also without baby essentials. For this reason, she offers to pick her up. Danielle declines.

Even though Danielle declines, she allows Andrew Bevily, Morris's younger brother to pick up Jurayah. She is transported from Vicksburg to Port Gibson and taken to Danielle's mother's home, Antoinette Skinner. In the meantime, Morris is in Fayetteville and he receives a phone call about his mother being admitted to the hospital. T'kia was home during this time.

They meet about noon with Antoinette Skinner to get Jurayah because she did not have clean clothes from that time until about 9 pm, they are at the hospital visiting Morris's mother, and hospital surveillance shows this. The surveillance also shows that the normally energetic Jurayah was not walking independently as she normally would. The one time she stood she needed the assistance of a nearby table. T'kia is the only person the toddler goes to rest her head on and goes to sleep.

They leave the hospital and make it home at about 10 pm. Both girls are put down for bed. Around 5 am, Jurayah is discovered in her crib passed away after a routine crib check. After the police arrive it was thought that Jurayah simply died in her sleep. T'kia nor Morris were arrested that night because there were no visible signs of abuse or distress.

Not one of the three medical experts placed a timeline on WHEN nor WHERE Jurayah sustained her injuries. Dr. Nichols testified under oath that it was possible that Jurayah was experiencing a lucid interval (the time between injury and symptoms). He also admitted that he altered his report because the prosecution told him to do so.

Dr. Dehnel found that the scalp contusion was not significant enough to cause death. He stated that Jurayah died from Sudden Unexplained Death in Children (SUDS). He too determined the skull fracture and associated bleeding were healing injuries. Jurayah had no other skull fracture, rib fracture, long bone fracture, retinal hemorrhages, subdural hematoma, no swelling of the brain, or any other injuries associated with child abuse.

Dr. George Nichols was hired by the state and did an analysis of the original autopsy. He did not perform the autopsy himself nor did he come to Mississippi. In his findings, he stated that the skull fracture and associated bleeding were all healing. He also stated that Jurayah had 5 scalp contusion that did not injure her brain. He concluded that somehow the 5 scalp contusions, which he could not age, caused her brain to swell and killed her. He ultimately concluded that the injuries could be as old as 8 days.

Dr. LaVaughn, who performed the autopsy, stated that Jurayah suffered linear parietal skull fracture along with asphyxiation with an undetermined etiology. He did not provide a time frame in which these injuries occurred. His autopsy saw absolutely no swelling in the brain. Unfortunately, he was placed on administrative leave prior to the trial and was unable to testify in court.''

Source: Instagram

So, this information leaves me with new questions and theories. Something worth stating here is that Jurayah was in the care of more than 4 people before she was actually given to the Bevily's. In another post with the same hashtag #istandwithkia, it is revealed a little bit more about Dannielle Skinner's testimony. Apparently, Dannielle testified that she thought that T'kia would hurt Jurayah and that the toddler was afraid of her.

So, why would T'kia be the first person you call to calm the baby down if it is afraid of her? Moreover, the defense attorney presented evidence, screenshots of an old text chat, where Dannielle states that she knows T'kia wouldn't hurt Jurayah. Dannielle and T'kia were actually very close friends. Later on, Dannielle issued a statement, following are direct quotes from her:

''I let the police lower me to that standard and every day I say to Shone that Kia didn't do that. I don't take interrogation well, and that is why I'm coming to you to apologize. And the police got into our heads so bad it left us clueless now I see they lie too. But I'm sorry if you don't forgive me I understand...and it hurts because now I'm having issues and you use to be my go-to person and I have no one to turn to''

The text has been altered for clarity.

The question is, who made Dannielle lie on the stand? Who pushed her to testify against her friend? Who influenced her during her initial interrogation? Rumors are, that Dannielle is best friends with the wife of the lead investigator, James Jefferson, and they used to be neighbors in Port Gibson.

My verdict

Considering all of the facts, statements, pictures, and videos I have to say this is a pretty complicated case. Am I ruling out the possibility of T'kia and Morris being guilty, no. But also I am not ruling out the possibility, that Jurayah could be hurt prior to the arrival in the couple's home. Also, the fact that T'kia was a registered nurse and did not perform CPR or call paramedics, could have been from the fact that she was in shock. Everyone takes this kind of events in a different way, maybe she was not showing any emotion due to the shock. Regardless, we cannot truly know for ourselves what her initial reaction was.

Regarding the trial, a few things don't sit right with me. Why was T'kia denied a change of venue? Why was the trial separate from the father's upcoming trial? Was there actually some sort of conspiration against T'kia? Why did T'kia's friend, Morris's cousin, Dannielle testify against her and later on changed her mind? Was she being pressured by someone?

About the medical experts, there is also a possibility that they were influenced by the prosecutor to change their initial statements. The strange thing is, none of them could give any details as to when and where the injuries occurred. The autopsy should be able to rule out when the injuries happened so that can narrow the suspect list. Considering how many people had the baby prior to her death, I think that all involved parties should be thoroughly investigated and should share responsibility. There is a high chance, that the injuries were caused by someone else or some incident occurred during the time the baby was transported from one place to another.

I personally, don't think that T'kia would abuse Jurayah on purpose. They seemed to have a good bond and a loving relationship. If you are jealous of a child or want to harm it, you wouldn't spend so much time taking care of it, would you? You wouldn't have dozens of pictures and videos with her. It just seems out of character to harm a child you spend so much time with.

I personally, don't think that T'kia would abuse Jurayah on purpose. They seemed to have a good bond and a loving relationship. If you are jealous of a child or want to harm it, you wouldn't spend so much time taking care of it, would you? You wouldn't have dozens of pictures and videos with her. It just seems out of character to harm a child you spend so much time with the initial autopsy. I am not saying that T'kia and Morris shouldn't have been indicted. I just feel that more pressure needs to be applied to all of the involved people that were taking care of Jurayah prior to her death.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, it has gathered a lot of different opinions. Some people stand with Dedreuna and some stand with T'Kia. So, what is your opinion?

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