Crime & Courts

President Obama signs Kilah Davenport child abuse act into law

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

President Barack Obama signed the federal Kilah Davenport act into law on Tuesday.

The law pressures states to increase their punishments for the worst child abuse. The legislation would direct the U.S. attorney general to issue a report detailing each state’s penalties for child abuse, including whether the laws provide enhanced penalties in cases of severe child abuse.

Kilah died in March from complications from the May 2012 assault at the hands of her stepfather, Joshua Houser, that fractured her skull and left her with permanent brain damage. She was 4.

In February, Houser was convicted of felony child abuse inflicting serious bodily harm. He was sentenced to a minimum of seven years and a maximum of 10 years in state prison.

Kilah was also the inspiration and namesake for a North Carolina law that increased sentencing punishments for five child abuse-related felonies. Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill into law last year.

If Kilah had been beaten after Kilah’s law was enacted, Houser could have been sentenced from 25 years to life in prison.

The federal law was sponsored by Robert Pittenger, a Republican from Charlotte.

“It provides the real hope that children in the future will be protected,” Pittenger said. “I’m very happy for the Davenport family that has been through a long and difficult journey. ... They fought hard and this has been on their mind that Kilah’s life would end up having great meaning.”