FLORENCE, Ala. (WHNT) — A Florence woman was found guilty of felony murder in connection to the death of a 3-year-old boy, according to Lauderdale County District Attorney Christopher Connolly.
Yalrick Zeonsha Pride, now 23, was charged alongside Blake Joshwell Townsend in the three-year-old’s murder in August 2020.
The Florence Police Department (FPD) said on August 12, 2020, they were called to North Alabama Medical Center regarding Kaiden Garner’s death.
According to investigators, Garner had been staying with his father in the days leading up to his death. Investigators said that witnesses confirmed the child, his father and others were in the area of Carver Circle the night before his death.
Police said that the area is a common gathering place for the community.
After initially saying it might have been a heat-related death, police said they discovered Garner was killed by blunt force trauma.
According to Connolly, emergency responders said Garner’s body was already cold, adding that rigor mortis had already set in. They also reported seeing bruises on the child’s body that were allegedly not there when the boy’s mother dropped him off with Townsend.
Connolly said Townsend did admit to hitting his son twice in his abdomen with an open hand, though he described other injuries including blunt-force trauma to Kaiden’s torso, head and upper and lower extremities.
According to testimony, Lauderdale County Chief Assistant District Attorney Angie Hamilton said Pride and Townsend “rode around smoking marijuana while [Kaiden] slowly died from injuries in the backseat.”
In a September 2020 indictment, Townsend was charged with “beating and/or punching [Kaiden Garner] and/or kicking him causing a laceration of the child’s liver, other internal injuries and external injuries and the death of said child.” Pride was initially only charged with aggravated child abuse.
In December 2022, Townsend agreed to plead guilty and be sentenced to life in prison in exchange for testifying against Pride.
Online court documents show Pride was indicted for felony murder in May 2023.
Connolly said that Pride will be sentenced on Sept. 27 and she has been jailed pending that hearing.
Pride’s jury trial began Wednesday, August 16.
Garner’s family set up a foundation in his name following his death to create child abuse awareness and prevention efforts. Donations can be made at any First Metro Bank location under the Kaiden Garner Project.