AIKEN -- Kathy Salley killed the 6-year-old girl in her care and will spend eight years in jail, a jury and judge decided Thursday.
The 30-year-old Aiken woman was convicted of homicide by child abuse after a circuit court jury deliberated for seven hours, over two days.
Her full sentence is 20 years suspended to eight years to serve. She must complete a minimum of 85 percent of her sentence before becoming eligible for parole.
"We thank you all for giving us closure," Chaquise Gregory's great aunt told the jury and judge.
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Gregory died from a beating to her buttocks that was administered with an object that was "consistent" with a piece of broken wood furniture found outside Salley's home.
Salley was a cousin of Gregory's biological mother. She had been given the child to raise as the mother was not capable. The victim's biological mother was in the courtroom but did not address the court.
Judge Doyet Early III said the sentence took into consideration Salley's lack of previous criminal record and that he had "no reason to doubt she truly loved the child as her own."
Early pronounced sentence and told the defendant that "the circumstances do not match up with (your) testimony."
On June 24, 2005, Salley ran into Aiken Regional's Emergency Room clutching the body of Gregory. The kindergartner had died at least 12 hours previously and had laid in bed with the woman she called Mom for much of that time.
The case was unique in that a blood disorder the victim unknowingly carried turned a severe beating into a mortal wound.
A forensic pathologist testified that the Sickle Cell Trait which the child carried caused the effects of a beating to cause a blockage of blood and her body starved of oxygen.
Salley testified that she had never struck the child in a severe way and that she never left the child in the time an expert said the beating occurred.
-- Aiken Standard, McClatchy-Tribune Regional News