BREAKING NEWS – GUILTY! That was the verdict from a Loudon County jury this morning in the trial of two people accused in the death of a Morgan County toddler. Court records state 17-month-old Levi Beaty died in June of 2014. His mother, Amanda Beaty, and her boyfriend, Rodger Prince, were indicted later that year by a Morgan County grand jury. Both were charged with felony murder and aggravated child abuse. Both Beaty and Prince pleaded not guilty, claiming Levi choked on a cookie. However, an autopsy on the child showed multiple blunt force injuries he sustained.
The trial, which was moved by Morgan County Criminal Court Judge Jeff Wicks to Loudon County upon the defendants’ motion for change of venue, began with jury selection last Tuesday. The district attorney’s office concluded its proof late on Thursday with the testimony of Dr. Darinka Mileusnic-Polchan of UT Forensics Center who testified about the results of the autopsy and the manner of death. Amanda Beaty took the stand in her own defense on Friday. Several witness, including Prince’s mother, testified on behalf of Prince Friday afternoon. Prince then took the stand yesterday before the trial concluded with closing arguments. The jury, consisting of four men and eight women, received the case just before 7 p.m. last night before breaking for the evening at 9 p.m. The jury returned to deliberations at 9 a.m. this morning and announced its verdict at 10:30 a.m. finding the two defendants guilty on all indicted counts, two separate counts of first degree felony-murder on both Beaty and Prince, as well as a third count of child endangerment on Beaty.
Judge Wicks immediately rendered life sentences to both defendants. Prince was taken into custody. Prince had been out of bond since his arrest in September 2014. Beaty was already in custody and has been in continuous custody since her arrest in September 2014. Senior District Attorney General Bob Edwards and Assistant District Attorney Jonathan Edwards (no relation) tried the case for District Attorney General Russell Johnson’s Office. Both of Bob Edwards and Jonathan Edwards had worked for years as criminal defense attorneys before joining General Johnson’s office, Bob Edwards in October of 2014 and Jonathan Edwards in November of 2017.
The death of ‘Baby Levi’ generated significant media attention in Morgan County at the time of his death at the hands of Beaty and Prince in June of 2014. A former babysitter of Levi and others, including family members of Levi’s father who lives in Cleveland, Tennessee, formed ‘Baby Levi’ Facebook and support groups, keeping his memory alive through the conclusion of the jury trial. In fact, the significant amount of publicity within Morgan County caused the Court to move the trial to Loudon County which move caused further delay in bringing the case to trial. The case also had to be continued numerous other times due to multiple changes in defendant Prince’s attorneys for various reasons. Josh Hedrick represented Amanda Beaty at the time of the trial and Tom Slaughter represented Rodger Dale Prince.
In June of 2014 Amanda Beaty was living in an apartment with her three children, including Levi. Local authorities, including the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office, responded to the Beaty apartment on June 1st of 2014 in response to a 9-1-1- call made by Amanda Beaty. Upon arrival they found Amanda, her older son and daughter, as well as her boyfriend, Rodger Dale Prince, and Prince’s daughter at the residence with baby Levi who appeared to be deceased. EMS took Levi to Methodist Medical Center in Oak Ridge while trying unsuccessfully to revive him. Prince and Beaty explained to the sheriff’s deputy and EMS that Levi had choked on a vanilla wafer.
The Morgan County Sheriff did not immediately contact the medical examiner, DCS or the district attorney because he assumed that it was an accidental death based on what Prince told them about the ‘cookie choking’ story.
Upon learning of the death some fourteen hours later, District Attorney General Russell Johnson ordered an autopsy of the deceased child and predicated the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation to take control of the scene and conduct a homicide investigation. The TBI investigation subsequently revealed that there was no sign of cookies at the scene according to the first responders, in fact there was a cookie jar that was entirely empty. Also, lead TBI Agent Dan Friel learned that Prince, Beaty and Prince’s mother appeared to fabricate the cookie story as cover for what really happened to cause Levi’s death.
Furthermore, it was revealed that the Department of Children’s Services had an open case on Amanda Beaty and Rodger Dale Prince at the time but had not removed Levi from the home, although there was an active court order that prohibited Amanda Beaty from allowing Prince to be in the home and around Levi. It would later be learned through the TBI investigation that Levi had been seen on at least two prior occasions at Children’s Hospital in Knoxville for severe injuries to his spine that had actually resulted in fractures. Dr. Milusenic testified at trial that the final cause of death was Levi’s aorta being ruptured and essentially ripped in half, trauma that was consistent with a high impact collision similar to ‘an automobile accident or being kicked by a horse’.
“It goes without saying that we are pleased with the verdict that brings justice to Baby Levi and validates the years that our office has worked to get this case to trial, going through several different defense attorneys and adjusting to the change of venue from Morgan County to Loudon County,” stated Russell Johnson. “This was a tremendous effort by both Bob and Jonathan, along with their support team – which included everyone else in the office covering everything else that still goes on when a trial of this magnitude not only takes place in the courtroom, but including during all of the days and weeks of preparation.”