John Futty The Columbus Dispatch
A Franklin County jury struggled through about 16 hours of deliberations over parts of four days before finding Kurt A. Flood guilty Thursday in the beating death of a 14-month-old boy whose body was tossed in an East Side creek.
Flood, 27, faces a mandatory life sentence, with no chance of parole for as many as 19 years, when he is sentenced Feb. 22 by Common Pleas Judge Michael J. Holbrook.
On Thursday morning, jury members told Holbrook that they had reached guilty verdicts on four counts — felonious assault, child endangering, tampering with evidence and abuse of a corpse — but couldn‘t reach a unanimous verdict on the murder charge. The judge encouraged them to keep working. After another three hours, they came back with guilty verdicts on all counts.
Flood denied hitting the toddler, Cameron Beckford. He testified Feb. 9 that the toddler‘s mother was responsible for inflicting the fatal injuries, but admitted that he helped her get rid of the body “out of the goodness of my heart.”
The mother, Dainesha Stevens, 28, testified that Cameron died two days after Flood repeatedly struck him with a hair brush “to beat the demons out of him” on Christmas Eve 2014. Columbus police officers found the child‘s battered body Dec. 31, 2014, stuffed in a backpack in Big Walnut Creek.
Stevens, her son and her 6-year-old daughter had moved to Columbus from Maryland earlier that month to escape a difficult relationship with the children‘s father. Flood, an old friend, offered to let them stay with him at his house on Kornwal Drive on the East Side, she said.
Stevens, who did nothing to protect her son from Flood‘s beatings, struck a deal with prosecutors nearly three years ago. She pleaded guilty to involuntary manslaughter and tampering with evidence and agreed to testify in exchange for a recommended sentence of 12 years.
“This is a two-witness case,” defense attorney Lewis Dye told jurors Monday in his closing argument. He said only Stevens and Flood know what happened and that jurors shouldn‘t believe Stevens, calling her “a pathological liar.”
Assistant Prosecutor James Lowe responded in his rebuttal closing that there was a third, critical witness. Michae Evans, Flood‘s former girlfriend, testified that Flood confessed to her shortly after Christmas 2014 that he had “buried a baby” after beating the child.
Earlier Monday, Flood interrupted Assistant Prosecutor Jennifer Rausch during the state‘s first closing statement. She was arguing that Stevens was truthful about failing to intervene when her child was beaten by Flood.
“That doesn‘t make sense at all,” Flood said from his seat at the defense table. ”What woman watches a man kill her son and doesn‘t do nothing about it?”
Lowe mentioned the outburst during his rebuttal closing, saying the murder resulted from Flood‘s anger and impatience with the crying toddler.
“He‘s got a temper,” Lowe said. “He can‘t control himself. You heard him right here. Miss Rausch is giving her closing statement, and he can‘t stop from talking. He can‘t keep it in check.”