Crime & Courts

Kilah Davenport’s death ruled a homicide by state medical examiner

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

Child abuse victim Kilah Davenport’s death has been ruled a homicide by the state medical examiner’s office, new case records show.

An autopsy report released last week found that the 4-year-old died in mid-March of pneumonia due to complications of head injuries from the 2012 assault by her stepfather, Joshua Houser.

In a “report of investigation” released after the autopsy, the manner of death was listed as homicide by Dr. Lauren Scott, associate chief medical examiner.

Union County District Attorney Trey Robison declined to comment Tuesday on Scott’s finding.

He said he plans to confer with law enforcement and meet with the doctor who handled the autopsy “in the near future” before deciding whether to file additional charges against Houser.

Kilah died just weeks after Houser was convicted of child abuse charges.

Diabetes also contributed to her death, the autopsy stated. She did not have diabetes before she was assaulted, her family has said.

Kilah’s grandmother, Leslie Davenport, said the homicide determination did not come as a surprise.

The ruling and the autopsy report “doesn’t change anything. It just keeps opening wounds,” she said. “We don’t have her, but we have to go through it all over again.”

In late February, Houser was convicted of the assault in which, in a fit of rage at their Indian Trail home in May 2012, he scooped up the girl and rammed her head through a wall. The attack nearly killed Kilah and left her with damage to 90 percent of her brain and a fractured skull.

“There were multiple discussions regarding continued life support versus withdrawing. The family wanted to continue care,” medical examiner Sylvia Collins wrote in the report of investigation.

Kilah was left permanently impaired, unable to talk or walk, but sat with her mother for parts of the trial and when the verdict was read. Houser was sentenced to 93 to 123 months in state prison.

Houser had maintained his innocence and claimed he loved Kilah. He is appealing the verdict.

Kilah’s mother and grandparents joined with community activists and politicians in pushing for what would become “Kilah’s Law,” which increased sentencing terms for five child-abuse related felonies.

The Davenports were unhappy with the length of time Houser had faced for his actions, but he could not be sentenced under Kilah’s Law because it was not in place at the time of the crime.

Gov. Pat McCrory signed the bill into law last year. In the spring, President Barack Obama signed into law the federal Kilah Davenport Child Protection Act. It directs the attorney general to issue a report detailing every state’s penalties for child abuse, including whether the laws provide enhanced penalties for cases of severe child abuse.

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