At 18 months old, little Tylea Moore had more than 15 times the number of physical injuries inflicted on her by Joshua Beard than her grown mother Alexis Botello did, according to medical examinations.
When Arlington police interviewed Botello, then 17, after Tylea was found dead on July 4, 2014, Botello had three or four bruises on her body. In contrast, “Tylea had about 70 injuries and about five or six of those were fatal,” said Melinda Westmoreland, who along with Tiffany Burks prosecuted Botello for capital murder last week.
Botello’s boyfriend of a few months, Beard, 24, was found guilty of stomping on Tylea until she died. The couple buried the child’s body under a bridge in Parker County. Police learned of the murder after Beard got arrested on unrelated charges and called a family member, who later became worried about Tylea’s whereabouts and called police for help.
The baby’s injuries included 22 breaks on her ribs, some of which were healed, and lacerations on her organs. Tylea, who is often shown in photos with a large smile and bow in her short hair, ultimately died of blunt force trauma.
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“This is probably the worst child death we’ve seen in Tarrant County,” Westmoreland said on Wednesday. “It wasn’t one time, it was over at least a span of two weeks. She’s pretty much being tortured and it’s amazing that she lived as long as she did.”
Botello was found guilty on Friday. Her attorney filed an appeal that day, and has argued that Botello was a battered woman who was afraid of Beard. J. Warren St. John said Botello did everything she could to protect Tylea, such as being physically and sexually abused by Beard to keep his attention away from her daughter.
St. John also said Beard threatened Botello and her family that he’d kill them if she ever tried to leave.
But Westmoreland and Burks argued extensively that Botello had several opportunities to get out of the abusive relationship prior to moving in with Beard in May 2014 — and even after she and Tylea began living with Beard. Botello also declined her family’s offers to care for Tylea.
Westmoreland also said Botello was neglectful. The couple would at times leave the child home alone with a bottle to feed herself, Westmoreland said.
“Our point-of-view was that she sacrificed the life her daughter deserved for the life she wanted,” she said.
Westmoreland and Burks also prosecuted Beard in April. He was sentenced to life in prison for felony murder.
Court documents during that trial outlined an abusive history by Beard against girlfriends he met prior to meeting Botello, including testimony that he hit, dragged and raped a girl. He also was controlling and wouldn’t let two ex-girlfriends or Botello wear makeup or have contact with friends, the documents said.
“Tiffany (Burk) and I weren’t contesting that (Beard) was anything but terrible, there’s no question about that,” Westmoreland said. “The bigger issue was there were several opportunities before (Botello) moved in and while she was there that she could have gotten her daughter out of that situation.”
She argued during the trial that Botello could have reached out for help while Beard was away from home, or while they were walking through Walmart looking for gloves and shovels as Tylea’s lifeless body lay in the trunk of their car.
In one interview with police after Tylea was found, Botello said she knew Tylea’s ribs were broken because the child would cry and point toward them.
“Her rib cage had actually collapsed,” Westmoreland said. “Had (Botello) gotten medical attention, there’s a chance Tylea would have a life.”
She would be 5 years old today.
“Our stance as far as the capital murder charge is that (Botello) was equally responsible because under law she had the legal duty to protect her child and to seek medical attention,” Westmoreland said.