A Miller County woman charged with murdering her boyfriend's two-year-old daughter will spend at least 20 years behind bars. Cheryl A. Patrick, 23, was found guilty of second-degree murder and abuse of a child by a Laclede County jury of five men and seven women Friday afternoon.
Patrick was charged with the beating death of 28-month-old Alexis Ward on Feb. 8, 2008. Patrick was the regular caretaker of Alexis and her 4-year-old sibling. Patrick presented Alexis to Miller County paramedics in Tuscumbia in an unresponsive condition. Alexis was flown by helicopter to Columbia, where she died two days later on Feb. 10, 2008. Following reports by medical staff of the suspicious nature of the infant’s injuries, a investigation into the death was commenced by the Miller County Sheriff’s Department, with assistance from the Missouri Department of Social Services State Technical Assistance Team, also aided by the Boone County Medical Examiner, with technical support from the Missouri State Fire Marshall’s Office, the Mid-Missouri Drug Task Force and the Missouri State Highway Patrol Crime Lab.
Patrick was arrested on May 27, 2008, following a four-month investigation conducted by the Miller County Sheriff's Department. Miller County Prosecuting Attorney Matt Howard charged Patrick with second degree murder and child abuse May 28, 2008. Howard noted that the law enforcement investigation involved hundreds of man hours of work and analysis because of the difficulty making sure police were focused on the correct suspect.
“The defendant initially gave explanations of accident to account for the child’s injuries which police quickly determined were implausible, but then the defendant misled investigators with seemingly convincing allegations of abuse by the child’s father," Howard said. "Only after painstaking and thorough fact checking of the very small details of the allegations were investigators able to conclusively establish that the defendant was fabricating essential parts of the story. At that time Patrick was arrested and investigators confronted her and obtained a detailed confession of the episode of fatal child abuse perpetrated by the defendant against Alexis.”
Patrick's attorney requested a change of venue from Miller County to Laclede County and the trial began Sept. 24, 2012.
Miller County Assistant Prosecutor Roger Gibbons represented the state and alleged that blunt force trauma had been the cause of death for Alexis Ward and was inflicted by Patrick while her boyfriend was at work. “Make no mistake, the defendant literally beat the life out of this little girl,” Gibbons said.
"Roger Gibbons is one of the most able and experienced felony prosecutors in this part of the state, and this case required a skilled trial attorney to present very complex medical evidence to the jury," Howard said. "Even with a confession, a case like this is very challenging because there are limited external signs of injury. The medical science surrounding these types of abusive head trauma injury is complicated and there are increasing numbers of paid medical consultant’s who come to court and will dispute even the most clear evidence of abuse to mislead a jury.”
Page 2 of 2 - The jury deliberated for three hours before finding Patrick guilty on all counts. A second sentencing stage of the trial was then held and within an hour the jury returned a recommendation punishment of 20 years in prison for murder and also 20 years in prison on the charge of abuse of a child.
Circuit Judge Stan Moore presided over the trial. After receiving the verdicts, Judge Moore ordered a presentence investigation advisory report and scheduled final sentencing in the case for Dec. 3, 2012, at the Laclede County courthouse in Lebanon.