Warning: Graphic content.

A Texas judge told a convicted child killer that "he should die in a locked closet" for savagely beating his girlfriend's four-year-old daughter to death.

Leiliana Wright was severely beaten and "strung up" by an array of belts in a closet in her Grand Prairie home as punishment when she died in March 2016.

She died suffering blunt force injuries to her head and stomach, the Daily Mail reports.

Advertisement
Texas Judge Robert Burns (right) told convicted child killer, Charles Wayne Phifer (left), 36, that
Texas Judge Robert Burns (right) told convicted child killer, Charles Wayne Phifer (left), 36, that "he should die in a locked closet." for savagely beating four-year-old to death. Photos / cbsdfw

On Wednesday, Charles Wayne Phifer, 36, received an automatic life sentence without the possibility of parole for the murder.

"Hanging a little girl in a locked closet was savage. You should die in a locked closet," State District Judge Robert Burns told Phifer.

"I think this is the worst case I've ever seen," Burns told Phifer.

According to Dallas News, the jurors deliberated for about four hours before delivering the guilty verdict.

Last week, gut-wrenching photos revealed the horrific abuse Leiliana suffered before she was beaten to death.

Her injuries so grisly, Grand Prairie police Sgt Brad Makovy claimed "it was the worst thing I've ever seen inflicted on a child" as he testified at Phifer's capital murder trial last Thursday.

Pictures showed the child with a black eye, a bruise on her cheek near her jaw, and in some shocking photos she can barely open one of her eyes, puffy from the abuse.

An investigator who snapped photos of Leiliana's body said nurses and officers were crying outside of the child's hospital room "because she was severely beaten".

In his testimony, Sergeant Makovy recalled how he interviewed the child's mother Jeri Quezada, 33, who was hesitant to talk and faces 50 years in jail for her part in young Leiliana's death.

Quezada will be formally sentenced by the judge Wednesday. Quezada testified against her former boyfriend last week.

She told the court that Phifer tied Leiliana up in the closet in a way so that she couldn't sit down.

He then lifted her by the throat and threw her into the closet so forcefully it left an indentation. She said he did this because she refused to eat, according to NBCDFW.

Leiliana was reportedly sick and vomiting days prior to her death.

Quezada said that Leiliana's hands were tied behind her back with electrical wire and something was tied around her stomach when she was strung up in the dark closet where she died.

Photos of the child show the horrific abuse she's suffered over the years including a black eye, a puffy eye, and bruises on her jaw.
Photos of the child show the horrific abuse she's suffered over the years including a black eye, a puffy eye, and bruises on her jaw.

Pictures of the crime scene shown to the jury displayed a bamboo switch that Phifer beat Leiliana to death with.

Her jeans were also displayed to the jury tangled up in three belts.

Quezada told police she left the child in her boyfriend's care because she was frustrated and needed "a break". She was out at dinner with her mother while Phifer was home with Leiliana.

She came home, she used heroin with Phifer, then asked about the child. Phifer responded saying the child was hung in the closet.

He put her there after he claimed she fell in the shower.

Quezada - who has a history of child abuse - allegedly previously told police that she kicked and slapped her daughter as discipline.

Leiliana's mother Jeri Quezada (right), 33, faces 50 years in jail for her part in the child's death with Charles Wayne Phifer (left). Photo / Dallas County Jail
Leiliana's mother Jeri Quezada (right), 33, faces 50 years in jail for her part in the child's death with Charles Wayne Phifer (left). Photo / Dallas County Jail

When questioned about it in court last week she said she couldn't remember telling police such details.

Leiliana's grandmother raised alarm about the child abuse to Child Protective Services sending in a photo of Leiliana with a black eye.

In February 2016 a caseworker went to the home and found Leiliana and her younger brother with Quezada and let her remain with the children.

The caseworker neglected to do a background check which would have shown that Quezada is a convicted felon with a history of child abuse that saw her lose custody of her three older children.

Quezada's mother Adeline Carr also testified in court last week that she lived with her for a couple months before Leiliana's death and described how skittish the child was.

Leiliana Wright was home with her mother's boyfriend Phifer at the time of her death in March 2016.
Leiliana Wright was home with her mother's boyfriend Phifer at the time of her death in March 2016.

"At first, she was very frightened of every strange noise or loud noise," Carr said in court.

She described Leiliana as quiet and shy, who stared at things rather than speaking up and asking for them.

Carr said Quezada would tell Leiliana it was okay to come out of her bedroom after waking each morning, but the child would stay in her room unless instructed she could leave.

Quezada pleaded guilty to felony injury to a child in July 2017 and is testifying against Phifer as a part of a plea deal.

If you're in danger now:

• Phone the police on 111 or ask neighbours of friends to ring for you.
• Run outside and head for where there are other people.
• Scream for help so that your neighbours can hear you.
• Take the children with you.
• Don't stop to get anything else.
• If you are being abused, remember it's not your fault. Violence is never okay

Where to go for help or more information:

• Women's Refuge: Free national crisis line operates 24/7 - 0800 refuge or 0800 733 843 www.womensrefuge.org.nz
• Shine, free national helpline 9am- 11pm every day - 0508 744 633 www.2shine.org.nz
• It's Not Ok: Information line 0800 456 450 www.areyouok.org.nz
• Shakti: Providing specialist cultural services for African, Asian and middle eastern women and their children. Crisis line 24/7 0800 742 584
• Ministry of Justice: www.justice.govt.nz/family-justice/domestic-violence
• National Network of Stopping Violence: www.nnsvs.org.nz
• White Ribbon: Aiming to eliminate men's violence towards women, focusing this year on sexual violence and the issue of consent. www.whiteribbon.org.nz

How to hide your visit

If you are reading this information on the Herald website and you're worried that someone using the same computer will find out what you've been looking at, you can follow the steps at the link here to hide your visit. Each of the websites above also have a section that outlines this process.