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story.lead_photo.caption (Left) McKenna Belcher-Cawley, 26. (Right) Everette Cawley, 23.

A father accused in the death of his 3-year-old daughter pleaded not guilty Tuesday to permitting the abuse of a minor.

Everette Cawley, 23, and his wife, McKenna Faith Belcher, 26, were arrested in April after Cawley's daughter, McKinley Cawley died, allegedly from physical injuries caused by Belcher. Belcher is charged with capital murder in McKinley's death and with second-degree domestic battery for injuries discovered on Cawley's 2-year-old son.

Cawley pleaded not guilty to one count of permitting the abuse of a minor involving his daughter, McKinley, and not guilty to a second count involving his son at a hearing before Circuit Judge Brent Haltom in a courtroom at the Miller County jail. Belcher is scheduled to appear for arraignment before Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson later this month.

Belcher is being held without bail. Cawley's bail is set at $1 million.

McKinley died of blunt force injuries hours after her father ran through the emergency room doors of a Texarkana hospital carrying her unconscious body. The gravely injured child was airlifted from CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System to Children's Medical Center in Little Rock where she died less than 12 hours later.

Hospital staff immediately suspected abuse was to blame for the youngster's dire medical condition and contacted police when she was brought for treatment at about 4:30 a.m. April 2. McKinley's suffering included a traumatic brain injury and "excessive bruising to the face and torso which is far beyond any over-active child and patterned to suggest use of a rigid object," the affidavit states. Belcher allegedly threw, kicked, stomped and beat McKinley in the days and hours before her death while Cawley allegedly failed to protect her, according to authorities.

External injuries similar to those seen on McKinley were found on the 2-yea-old boy's face, torso and legs, which doctors hypothesized they were caused by a "blunt type instrument/object" and are described as bruising all along his face and limbs. The couple's infant, born Jan. 30, was in need of medical attention as well.

The girl had a severe yeast infection "under her neck skin fold," which was bleeding at the time she was taken into state custody.

Cawley faces five to 20 years if found guilty of permitting the abuse of a minor resulting in death as he is charged in connection with McKinley. If found guilty of permitting the abuse of his son, Cawley faces up to six years in prison. Belcher faces five to 20 years in prison if found guilty of second-degree domestic battery involving her stepson. If convicted of capital murder, Belcher faces life without parole or death by lethal injection.

llarowe@texarkanagazette.com

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