Boyfriend accused in beating death of girlfriend’s daughter

Leiliana Wright was born in 2012, when her mother was serving prison time.
Leiliana Wright was born in 2012, when her mother was serving prison time. Courtesy of Craig Clakley

The boyfriend of a woman jailed last week in the beating death of her 4-year-old daughter is now also accused in the case.

Charles Phifer, 34, was arrested and being booked Friday into the Grand Prairie Jail with bail set at $1 million.

His girlfriend, 30-year-old Jeri Quezada, was arrested March 25 and remains jailed with bail set at $500,000.

Both were arrested on warrants for injury to a child in the death of Leiliana Wright, but police have said additional charges could be sought.

Quezada, while serving a six-year prison sentence for burglary, gave birth to Leiliana in a Galveston hospital in January 2012. Leiliana was raised by her paternal grandparents, and Quezada was given custody of the child when released in 2013.

Grand Prairie police responded to a home in the 2200 block of 14th Street not long after midnight March 13 on a report of a child having difficulty breathing.

Quezada told arriving medics that her daughter had fallen in the shower, according to an arrest warrant affidavit written by Detective B. Makovy. The emergency crew observed severe bruising on her face and said she was not breathing.

Leiliana was taken to Medical Center of Arlington where she was pronounced dead at 1:07 a.m. of what would later be ruled blunt-force trauma to her head and abdomen.

The mother initially told police that her daughter had spent several days with a friend and had returned home with the bruising on her face. She said her daughter wanted to take a shower and that she later heard the girl fall and found her unresponsive.

But in subsequent interviews with Makovy, Quezada kept changing her story, the affidavit states.

Mom, boyfriend shot up heroin

Ultimately, she said she took Leiliana and her 18-month-old son to visit Phifer about 11:30 a.m. March 12. She said the couple shot up heroin in the bathroom, the affidavit states.

Quezada told police she and Phifer later started hitting Leiliana with a belt and bamboo because the girl drank her little brother’s juice. She said she then left her daughter with Phifer while she ran errands “because she knew that she couldn’t take the child out in public due to the bruising on the child’s face.”

Quezada said she and her son were back at their house when Phifer called her and asked her to bring Pedialyte, an electrolyte drink, to his home for Leiliana.

She told police that she did as he requested, then returned to her own house to take a nap. She said Phifer called her about 5:30 p.m. to tell her he had tied up Leiliana for about 10 minutes because the girl was making herself throw up.

Quezada told police that after having dinner, she went to pick up her daughter around 9:30 p.m.

She “stated that when she got to the house, Charles had told her that the child was tied up in the closet, so she allowed him to give her a shot of heroin since the child couldn’t see her mother doing drugs,” the affidavit states.

Extensive bruising

Quezada told the detective when she later opened the closet door, she saw her daughter with her wrists tied behind her back.

“There was also something attached to the ligature that was also attached to the coat rod in the closet which prevented the child from sitting down,” the affidavit states.

The mother told the detective when her daughter was let out, the child said she was hungry so she made the girl half of a peanut butter sandwich.

She said when her daughter had troubling swallowing, she slapped the girl’s chest and hit the back of her head, telling her to swallow her food. She said her boyfriend then put on black gloves, forced the child’s mouth open and poured Pedialyte into her mouth, the affidavit states.

Quezada told the detective her daughter later vomited, after which Phifer lifted the girl by her throat with one hand and shoved her against the drywall.

“It is believed that when this happened, the child’s body created an indention in the drywall,” Makovy wrote in the affidavit.

Quezada told police that Phifer then threw her daughter back in the closet, where the girl remained for about 15 to 20 minutes.

She said she was getting pajamas for Leiliana as the girl later showered when she heard Phifer in the bathroom, saying “Get you some of this” followed moments later by the sound of the girl falling, the affidavit states.

An autopsy revealed the child had extensive bruising from head to toe and whip marks on her back, the affidavit states.

Deanna Boyd: 817-390-7655, @deannaboyd