METAIRIE, La. -- A man is facing life in prison Thursday for killing his girlfriend’s toddler.
Troy Kelly, 30, was convicted last month of second-degree murder for the Feb. 20, 2014 death of 27-month-old Semaj Batiste. The parish coroner reported the toddler's death was caused by blunt-force traumatic injuries inflicted through numerous beatings in their apartment in the 300 block of North Laurel Street.
Forensic pathology evidence presented during the trial shows Semaj died within hours of receiving the injuries that included cuts to the liver and spleen and broken ribs.
“The one burning question I have is why? What causes a man to beat an innocent child to death?” Semaj’s uncle Gary Bukaske asked in a testimony before a court. “What could an innocent toddler have done to deserve this treatment?”
Bukaske also said that Kelly will have the blessing of waking every morning still breathing.
“Semaj took his last breath in agonizing pain,” he testified.
Life without the benefit of probation, parole or suspended sentence is the mandatory punishment for second-degree murder under Louisiana law. Judge Donnie Rowan of the 24th Judicial District Court sentenced Kelly after rejecting defense attorneys’ requests for a post-verdict judgment of acquittal and a new trial.
Kelly told the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office that he was bathing Semaj and two of his siblings when Semaj defecated in the tub. In rushing to remove the children from the bath, he said he may have flung Semaj into the toilet.
During the interrogation, authorities said Kelly was observed praying and saying to himself, “I’m sorry, Jesus. I’m so sorry.”