ATLANTA - A Tuesday morning ruling by the Georgia Supreme Court means a murder conviction will stand for a Gainesville man who killed his girlfriend's 18-month-old daughter in June 2011.
The justices unanimously upheld the August 2012 convictions for malice murder, aggravated assault and cruelty to children in the first degree levied against Stephen Clark West in connection with the beating death of Kaylee Kipp and the physical abuse of her older sisters, ages 7 and 4 at the time of the crimes.
West had argued in his appeal that the evidence was insufficient to convict him, the State improperly attacked his right to remain silent and his trial attorney had rendered "ineffective assistance of counsel" in violation of his constitutional rights. The justices turned aside all of those arguments.
West is currently serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
In issuing Tuesday's ruling, the State Supreme Court outlined evidence presented in the court case:
"According to the evidence, on the afternoon of June 12, 2011, emergency responders found Kaylee's body in her 'Pack 'n Play' crib at the Gainesville apartment that her then 24-year-old mother [Deanna Kipp] shared with West, who was 22. Kaylee had been dead for hours and rigor mortis had set in. The medical examiner determined that skin lesions at the toddler's diaper line were most likely caused by postmortem insect activity. Examination of her body revealed several possible causes of death. According to the medical examiner who performed the autopsy, Kaylee was struck at least six times in her head and face, and the bruises were consistent with human knuckle marks from a closed fist. Pooling of blood at the front of her body was consistent with being pressed face down against the pad of her crib. The medical examiner concluded that multiple injuries caused Kaylee's brain to undergo severe swelling and that the little girl died not only as a result of blunt force trauma to her head but also as a result of asphyxiation caused by having her face pressed down into the bottom of her 'Pack 'n Play.' She might have survived if she had received immediate medical attention to reverse the swelling in her brain, and 'her suffering was likely prolonged,' according to this Court's opinion upholding Kipp's convictions.
"Following Kaylee's death, [siblings] S.K. and A.K. were taken to the Edmundson-Telford Center for Children for physical examinations and forensic interviews. They too had sustained a number of gruesome injuries. A nurse practitioner found cigarette burns on S.K.'s wrist and elbow and a large bruise on her backside, which the child said was from being 'spanked really hard.' The younger child had multiple bruises in various stages of healing. Both her eyes were black like 'raccoon eyes'