UNION COUNTY, N.C. - It was very emotional in the courtroom Thursday afternoon. Several of Joshua Houser’s family members left the courtroom crying as soon as they heard the guilty verdict. All along they have said that they believe Houser is innocent.
But that is not what the jury decided. It found Houser guilty of felony child abuse. The jury was asked to decide if there were aggravated factors in the case to warrant maximum sentencing.
The prosecution argued there were two -- that Kilah Davenport was very young and that the crime was especially heinous, atrocious or cruel. The jury agreed with that and the judge sentenced Houser to seven to 10 years. He will get credit for time he has already served.
“The evidence presented in the case showed that on May 16, 2012, Houser was left alone with his then 3-year-old stepdaughter Kilah and physically assaulted her in a fit of rage, shoving her head through the wall of his home at 9600 Covey Trail in Indian Trail,” according to a news release from the District Attorney’s Office
The evidence showed the assault caused immediate, life-threatening and permanent injuries to Kilah’s skull and brain, according to the release.
Kilah and her family were in the courtroom for the verdict and sentencing. Before Houser was sentenced, Kilah’s grandmother Leslie Davenport read an impact statement. In it she addressed Houser, saying her family let him into their home and he failed mother Kirbi Davenport, Kilah and himself.
Davenport went on to say that Kilah is imprisoned in her body now and that if she had real justice, his sentencing would have fallen under her law.
Kilah’s Law was passed in North Carolina, increasing sentences for people convicted of child abuse.
Houser’s attorney said in court that his client maintains his innocence. After the trial ended, Houser’s father told Channel 9 he didn’t feel his son had a fair trial.
"I didn't have the money to hire all the experts. The state had all their experts. We didn't have, my son didn't have, but one here to testify," said Terry Houser.
Kilah’s mother, Kirbi Davenport, told Channel 9 she was glad this is over. Now she and her family can put this chapter behind them and continue to focus on taking care of Kilah.
Kirbi Davenport said that the guilty verdict was justice for her daughter but she doesn't feel like the sentence was enough.
"Kilah is changed forever and you only have to have your life altered for a little bit. There's no justice in that," she said.
She said it was difficult in court to relive what happened to her daughter. But she had nothing angry to say about the man now convicted of hurting her.
"I forgive him, whether he's man enough to say he's sorry or not, because I have to do that for my child," said Davenport. “This isn't about him. This is about my child and about my child getting justice."
Read more coverage on the case by clicking here.