SPOKANE, Wash. —
A man was convicted of homicide by abuse on Friday for the horrific death of his 4-year-old daughter, who had been repeatedly beaten, bitten, burned and denied food for long periods.
A Spokane County Superior Court jury found Jonathan Lytle guilty in the torture that led to the March 2007 death of Summer Phelps. The 30-year-old welder from Spokane was also convicted of the aggravating factors of deliberate cruelty, vulnerability of the child and violating a position of trust.
Lytle faces a sentence of life in prison. Summer's stepmother, Adriana Lytle, previously pleaded guilty to homicide by abuse and faces up to 20 years in prison.
In closing arguments Thursday, Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz contended the Lytles turned their tiny apartment into a "torture chamber" where Summer was beaten, burned, shocked with an electric dog collar, forced to wash urine-soaked clothes, starved and dunked in a bathtub for punishment.
Prosecutors said Lytle told detectives that he beat Summer with a belt on the day of her death for moving too slowly to clean up garbage before a nurse's scheduled visit to the apartment. He took her out of the apartment that morning for a drive so the nurse wouldn't see her head-to-toe bruises.
"By removing the child from the apartment on March 10, we know the defendant evaded medical care for Summer. If the nurse had seen those injuries, she would have called law enforcement," Steinmetz said.
It took Lytle an hour and a half to bring his daughter to the hospital after she was found underwater in the bathtub, where she had been forced to wash clothes for hours after she returned, prosecutors said.
Defense lawyer Edward Carroll blamed most of the victim's injuries on Adriana Lytle, saying Jonathan Lytle worked long hours to support his family and was gone when most of the abuse occurred.
He portrayed his client as an incompetent parent who was innocent of "extreme indifference to human life."
"He was ignorant, inept as a parent, but he was not indifferent to whether she lived or died," Carroll said.
Summer's mother, Elizabeth Phelps, recently sued Child Protective Services for failing to protect her daughter. Phelps, of Poulsbo, Wash., had custody of Summer but allowed the child to visit the Lytles in Spokane for a month in August 2006 and never reclaimed her.
Spokane man guilty of 4-year-old daughter's death
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