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Published: Monday, 11/26/2007

Woman reportedly says she, husband killed 2-year-old, believed to be Baby Grace' from Ohio

ASSOCIATED PRESS

GALVESTON, Texas A woman believed to be the mother of a 2-year-old whose body was found in Galveston Bay told police she and the girl s stepfather beat and tortured the child to death, court documents show.

The details in an arrest affidavit paint a chilling picture of the last days of the girl investigators called Baby Grace as they worked for weeks to learn her identity.

Investigators are awaiting DNA test results but said Monday they are fairly confident that the body a fisherman found in a plastic box Oct. 29 is that of Riley Ann Sawyers. Her mother, Kimberly Dawn Trenor, and stepfather, Royce Clyde Zeigler II, were arrested early Saturday and are in custody on charges of hurting the girl.

It was a few weeks ago I held up this little shoe and asked, Who is Baby Grace? Who does this belong to? sheriff s Maj. Ray Tuttoilmondo said at a news conference. We re now fairly confident we know the answer to that.

Zeigler attempted suicide last week and wrote a note saying, My wife is innocent of the sins that I committed, according to the court documents, which were filed Saturday and first reported Monday by Houston television station KTRK.

An autopsy revealed that Riley suffered three skull fractures, but the cause of death has not been determined.

In a statement to police included in the affidavit, Trenor, 19, said she and Zeigler, 24, killed Riley July 24.

The girl was beaten with leather belts, had her head held underwater in a bathtub and then was thrown across a room, her head slamming into a tile floor, Trenor said in the document. She said they kept the body in a storage shed for one to two months before they put it in a plastic bin and dumped it into Galveston Bay.

Trenor said in the document that after her daughter was killed, Zeigler had her forge a document that the Ohio Department of Children s Services had taken Riley away because of allegations of sexual abuse.

Tuttoilmondo said Trenor had told relatives that someone claiming to be a social worker from Ohio, where Riley s father lives, took the girl in July.

Trenor s attorney, Tom Stickler, said she has cooperated with authorities. He declined to comment about her statement to investigators.

But from what she said, there is no doubt that the girl found is Riley Sawyers, Stickler said.

Trenor and Zeigler were charged with injury to a child and tampering with evidence, Tuttoilmondo said. Bail was set at $350,000 each. The couple s next court appearance was expected to be scheduled on Tuesday.

Wendell Odom, Zeigler s attorney, declined to comment on the case except to say Zeigler grew up in Spring, about 75 miles north of Galveston, and works as an instrument technician in the oil industry.

Trenor and Zeigler met a couple of years ago playing an online game, World of Warcraft, and she moved with her daughter from suburban Cleveland to Spring in June, Stickler said.

Riley s paternal grandmother, Sheryl Sawyers, hadn t seen her granddaughter in months when she saw a police sketch of Baby Grace. Thinking it might be Riley, she called authorities in Texas.

In Mentor, Ohio, on Monday, Sawyers wiped away tears at a news conference and held up the Elmo doll she had already bought Riley for Christmas.

It s hard to think that I ll never see her again, she said.

The Sawyers family s attorney, Laura DePledge, said they take comfort in knowing that the girl is resting peacefully and is no longer subject to abuse.

DePledge said Trenor and Sawyers son, Robert Sawyers, also of Mentor, had been high school sweethearts. Sheryl Sawyers said she has not seen Riley since the girl and Trenor moved to Texas.

Robert Sawyers, who works in an auto-parts store, was never married to Trenor but lived with her and their daughter in his parents home for about two years. He and Trenor split up after March 31, when he was charged with domestic violence against her.

DePledge said there was insufficient evidence to support the charge, which was reduced to disorderly conduct. Robert Sawyers is now married and has a 3-month-old son.

Riley had a very big imagination for such a little girl, he said of his daughter. She could play with anything and have fun with it.

Tuttoilmondo said investigators became emotionally involved in determining the little girl s identity.

Any way you look at it, we carry a piece of her with us and will always carry a little piece of her with us, he said. She s still our little girl.

Read more in later editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com



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