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Grand jury considers murder charge in Kilah Davenport death

Kilah Davenport died in March from injuries sustained in a May 2012 beating.
Kilah Davenport died in March from injuries sustained in a May 2012 beating. 2012 OBSERVER FILE PHOTO

Just weeks after a North Carolina Medical Examiner report calls Kilah Davenport's death a homicide, a grand jury will decide if her step-father will face murder charges.

WBTV has learned that a Union County grand jury will determine if Joshua Houser will face second-degree murder charges in Davenport's death. The case was presented to the grand jury Monday morning.

Houser was convicted in February of felonious assault after he threw the then three-year-old girl into a wall, leaving her with severe brain damage, in May 2012. She died two weeks after the trial ended.

An autopsy completed in March 2014 showed Davenport died from pneumonia due to health complications from the attack. An additional report, completed in August, ruled Kilah Davenport's March 13 death as a "homicide."

Houser is currently slated to serve at least eight to ten years behind bars for felonious assault.

Kilah was at home with her mother in March when she took "two funny breaths." Her mother began performing CPR and called 911. They then rushed the young girl to the hospital, but she soon passed away.

In a section of the autopsy that references injuries, the report refers to Kilah as "emaciated." It listed Kilah's skin as appearing to be "very thin," and says her ribs and vertebrae were prominent. She also had an "overall appearance of dehydration."

"There is obvious skull deformity with bilateral concavities at the anterior calvarium," the Medical Examiner wrote.

Houser's trial lasted nine days and jurors deliberated for four hours before returning the guilty verdict. He has always insisted that he didn't do it.

Kilah's grandmother, Leslie Davenport, told WBTV earlier this month that she hopes Houser faces additional charges in her death.

"I am hoping that they can bring more charges, but that's up to the DA and the detectives and the good Lord," she said. "All I can do is just wait like everyone else."

She would have turned five in April.

After the autopsy was released earlier this month, WBTV reached out to the Union County District Attorney's Office to see if Houser could face additional charges in Kilah's death.

"The death of Kilah Davenport remains under investigation," they released in their previous statement. "No decision regarding any further charging of Joshua Houser will be made until the Union County District Attorney's Office has had the opportunity to fully review the autopsy findings, consult with the autopsy physician, and confer with our law enforcement colleagues. There is no further comment at this time."

In May, President Barack Obama signed a child abuse legislation, named after Kilah, into law. The legislation was crafted to make sure states across the country are taking child abuse seriously – was signed into law by President Obama Tuesday.

Congressman Robert Pittenger, of North Carolina's Ninth District, filed Kilah's Act in 2013. The legislation requires the US Attorney General to issue a state-by-state report on child abuse prevention laws within six months, with a particular focus on penalties for cases of severe child abuse.

That report is due to the U.S. Justice Department by November.

The goal, officials say, is to highlight deficient laws and provide states with the opportunity to fix those laws before another tragedy occurs.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-NC, introduced the legislation in the Senate.

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