Trial begins for alleged baby killer

October 20, 2009 2:56:02 PM PDT
A one-time Fort Bliss soldier was set to stand trial Tuesday on a capital murder charge in the death of a toddler he and his wife were taking care of. Nakia Jonathan Dawkins and his wife were arrested last year after a 2-year-old girl in their custody died from severe internal injuries. A pathologist determined that Milanya Harris was severely beaten and had bruises over 40 percent of her body. She also had nine tumor-like blood clots in her brain, according to an autopsy.

Dawkins, who was an Army staff sergeant when he was arrested, has pleaded not guilty.

"He's innocent and we're going to trial," his lawyer Theresa Caballero told the El Paso Times for Tuesday's edition. "We're going to fight the charges."

According to a charging affidavit initially filed in the case, he and his wife both implicated themselves. Dawkins's status with the Army was unclear Tuesday.

His wife, Shawntrell Dawkins, is scheduled to stand trial in December.

According to police, the Dawkinses called 911 on April 8, 2008 and claimed that Milanya had fallen down several stairs in couple's El Paso apartment.

Her older brother, 4-year-old Jailen, also had visible injuries, police said.

The Dawkinses were taking care of the children while their soldier parents, Earl Harris III and Sheree Harris, were both deployed overseas.

Earl Harris, who was deployed to Iraq when his daughter died, told the El Paso Times last year that the couple had planned to move the children to Germany, where Sheree Harris was stationed. But the move was repeatedly postponed and Earl Harris initially believed his children were well taken care of.

"From my gathering, it seemed the kids were OK," Earl Harris told the newspaper. "But you never know how people really are."

If convicted, Nakia Dawkins could face up to life in prison. Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty.

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