Suicide note discussed in 'Baby Grace' trial

November 3, 2009 2:38:41 PM PST
The prosecution could rest today in the capital murder trial of Royce Zeigler, who's accused of beating his young stepdaughter to death. [PHOTOS: Images from 'Baby Grace' trial]

The body of Riley Ann Sawyers was found in Galveston Bay two years ago. Her mother is already serving life in prison.

Zeigler walked into court Tuesday wearing a dark suit. As he did on Monday, he kept his head down during the morning testimony, rarely looking up.

It was FBI handwriting expert Gabriel Watts who showed a darker side of Zeigler to the jury. Watts confirmed a handwritten suicide note found in Zeigler's home was written by Zeigler. The suicide note was written, says the prosecution, by Zeigler one week before Zeigler's arrest.

Watts was one of three FBI agents testifying about evidence confiscated from Zeigler's home, including forensic testing performed on three of Zeigler's belts.

The prosecution contends Riley Ann was beaten to death and Zeigler beat her with belts. The FBI expert testified Zeigler's DNA was found on the belts. Defense attorney Dee McWilliams pointed out, "If they're his belts, you would expect to find his DNA?"

"Yes," answered FBI forensic scientist Rhonda Craig.

Another FBI agent testified about emails and searches found on Zeigler's computer, including a search of landfills and other locations.

"Someone looked at maps for Galveston," testified FBI computer expert Ben Stone.

The prosecution is trying to prove Zeigler was actively involved in Riley Ann's death. Her body was found stuffed in a trunk in west Galveston Bay in October 2007. The defense says there is no evidence linking Zeigler to the crime and his suicide note is not an admission of guilt.

"The state is attempting to hang their hat, that this is some kind of confession to this crime," said McWilliams. "Just read it. It isn't. It doesn't say he is guilty of murdering Riley."

If convicted, Zeigler faces up to life in prison.

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