Jury finds man guilty of murder in death of Gaston Co. toddler

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — The jury have reached a verdict in the case of a man accused of killing 3-year-old Jordyn Dumont.

Billy McCullen was found guilty of first degree murder by torture. He was also found guilty of felony murder.

He was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

McCullen was on trial for the death of Dumont. She was the daughter of McCullen's girlfriend.

McCullen is accused of killing her last year at their home near Bessemer City.

The judge decided Friday to keep McCullen's first degree murder charge by torture after hearing testimony from both sides.

McCullen had confessed to killing Jordyn. He said he slung Jordyn across the road and punched her hard three times. He said he then hid her body in the woods near her home in Bessemer City and reported her missing.

Prosecutors said McCullen's confession shows he intended to make her suffer.

Jurors saw video Wednesday afternoon of the wooded area where Jordyn's body was found and they also heard McCullen's 911 call reporting the child missing.

A medical examiner testified that not all the bruises came from McCullen and may have been made four days before her death.

The defense suggested Jordyn's mother hit her own child, but she was never charged.

The trial was moved to Shelby because of the attention the case received. The trial is expected to last about a week and a half.

Jordyn's biological father, Josh Kinnett, was in the courtroom Monday.

“We get justice for Jordyn, and we find out what actually happened to her," Kinnett said.

The state decided not to pursue the death penalty against a McCullen. Instead, the prosecution said it will pursue a sentence of life in prison after McCullen's attorney entered a not guilty plea.

"It's not right. I'm furious," neighbor Cynthia Tessner said.

Frustrated neighbors, including Tessner, wanted the death penalty on the table.

"It makes me want to get on my knees and cry like a baby," Tessner said.

An autopsy showed that Jordyn suffered blunt force trauma before she died.

According to the medical examiner, the girl had internal bleeding and more than 60 bruises on her chest, stomach, hands and legs.

Her body was found in a hole near her house near Bessemer City after McCullen told police that she disappeared while her mother was at work, authorities said.

"This is one of the saddest cases we've ever had to work," said Chip Rollins, a representative of child advocacy group Guardians of Children.

McCullen called police to report her missing and told investigators that Jordyn walked away from home, police said.

After the girl’s body was found a day later, police charged McCullen with her murder.

Several people gasped when McCullen's attorney entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

"How dare (he) do that, you know? But I understand it's the system," Rollins said.

McCullen's attorney asked the judge to set bond at $100,000. Instead, the judge set bond at $2 million, pointing to McCullen's previous drug convictions, his lack of a job and his lack of a place to stay.

The judge's decision was met with applause, but some neighbors who remember Jordyn's bright smile are still not satisfied.

"I don't think he should be able to have a bond," Tessner said. "It's not right, it's not fair."

McCullen's attorney did not want to talk on camera about the case.

A group of people who have been following the case through court plan to start protesting every Thursday morning outside the Gaston County Department of Social Services.

They think better protection is needed for children because one of the department's social workers visited Jordyn's house in the months before her death but didn't find reason to remove her from the home.

Channel 9 learned that social workers visited Dumont's home five times after complaints of drug abuse, but never found any problems with Jordyn or her 1-year-old sister.

Neighbors told Channel 9 that before her death, they saw Jordyn with bruises and black eyes.

The girl’s mother, Jaylene, claims that her children were never abused.

Jordyn's sister was taken into DSS custody after her death. It is unclear if her mother has since regained custody.

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