Testimony of violent outbursts

November 5, 2009 6:04:26 PM PST
It's been a day of tearful testimony in the capital murder trial of Royce Zeigler. He's accused of killing his stepdaughter, Riley Ann Sawyers, the little girl once known as Baby Grace. Today the jury heard from Zeigler's mother, who had a lot to say about Riley's mother. [PHOTOS: Images from 'Baby Grace' trial]

Nellie Zeigler spent more than four hours on the stand. She testified on behalf of her son Royce Zeigler, who she called 'Roycie.' Nellie provided the most detailed look into the life of Royce and Kimberly Trenor. Trenor has already been convicted of the beating death of her two-year-old daughter Riley and sentenced to life in prison.

Nellie told the jury her son Royce and Trenor lied about Riley's whereabouts, saying at first she'd gone to live with relatives.

"I was surprised," Nellie testified. "I told her I'd be happy to quit my job and take care of Riley. I was so hurt this was not discussed."

Nellie said she again confronted her son after Riley's remains were found but not yet identified.

"Royce was crying," Nellie testified, "and said, 'Please, Mama, don't get involved.'"

Nellie testified the story of Riley's whereabouts kept changing, saying Trenor made an odd admission in November.

"'I did something really stupid. I threw away everything of Riley's in different dumpsters.' I said, 'That's stupid. You act like she's not coming back,'" Nellie testified.

A few weeks later after the confrontation, Nellie testified, there was one more confrontation with Trenor that turned violent. Royce's father called Trenor a liar.

Nellie testified, "Kim jumped up and she put her fingers up and said, 'F-- you, f-- you, f-- you.' I had never seen this rage in her before. I was shocked. If looks could kill she'd kill us all."

Defense attorney Dena Fisher told Eyewitness News, "This is the first time the jury is getting to hear some of the truth, some of the story about who Royce is, not just from some people who come in and say bad things about him. The jury has gotten to hear from people that have known him his whole life."

Closing arguments begin Friday at 9:30am. If convicted, Zeigler could spend the rest of his life in prison. His wife, Kimberly Trenor, is already serving a life sentence.

Riley had initially been dubbed Baby Grace when her unidentified remains were found by a fisherman in Galveston Bay in October 2007. Riley's grandmother recognized her from an artist's sketch.

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