Man found guilty in Dewey stepchild murder case

BARTLESVILLE, Okla. - A Dewey man accused of murdering his 15-month-old stepchild has been found guilty.

Prosecutors say Marcus Mitchell beat his stepdaughter, Emma Beth Warmbrodt, to death at their home in Dewey in February 2012.

On Friday evening, Mitchell was found guilty of first-degree murder, three counts of child neglect, possession of a controlled dangerous substance and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.

Mitchell was found not guilty on two counts of possession of dangerous substances.

For the murder count, the jury recommended a life sentence for the 23-year-old, as well as a $5,000 fine.

The jury recommended a total of 38 years of incarceration for the child neglect charges and a total of 1 year in jail and a $500 fine for the drug charges.

The toddler's grandparents traveled from Kansas to attend closing arguments Friday.

"We miss her and today we'll find justice," said Kristi Warmbrodt, Emma's grandmother. "We didn't have much time with her but what time we did have was well worth it and we'll never forget her."

After the verdict was announced, the family expressed relief.

"I'm very happy, I think it's right on. I think Emma had justice served," said Edward Warmbrodt, the toddler's grandfather.

During Mitchell's trial this week, prosecutors called several witnesses to testify.

According to testimony from investigators, the toddler suffered severe injuries and was covered with bruises. In addition, they described the home the child lived in as "filthy."

During closing arguments on Friday, prosecutors told jurors Mitchell's behavior following the child's death and during his interviews with police displayed "evidence of a guilty mind" and recommended the jury return a guilty verdict with a life sentence.

"It's not all about Marcus Mitchell. We've got a dead baby," said Jared Sigler, assistant district attorney for Washington County.

Sigler teared up as he finished his closing argument.

Mitchell's defense questioned the validity of the Oklahoma State Medical Examiner's report, which ruled the girl's death as blunt force trauma to the chest.

Shortly after the autopsy was performed, two medical examiners assigned to work on the case were fired.

The state's chief medical examiner said the terminations had nothing to do with Warmbrodt's case and stood by the report and his former employees' work.

Mitchell's attorney later told jurors that based on evidence and conversations he had with his client, he believed Mitchell wasn't completely innocent.

"I believe Marcus killed that child and struck that child," he said. "I'm not asking you to send Marcus home."

Mitchell's attorney said the little girl's death was accidental, an argument the jury did not buy.

Two others are also charged in connection to the toddler's case.
 
The little girl's mother, Ashley Ann Williamson Mitchell, along with Mitchell's mother, Juanchellee Fitch, face child neglect charges. Fitch is also charged with accessory to first degree murder.
 
Williamson Mitchell pleaded guilty last week and is awaiting sentence. Fitch is expected to enter a plea to potentially lesser charges Feb. 6.

Marcus Mitchell's sentencing is scheduled for March 27.

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