TEXARKANA, Ark. — A circuit judge in Miller County has entered a gag order in the case of a local woman accused of beating her husband's 3-year-old daughter to death.
The order signed Monday by Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson prevents the prosecution, defense or law enforcement from speaking publicly about the case of McKenna Faith Belcher, 27, and prohibits disclosure of law enforcement's investigative file. Prosecuting Attorney Stephanie Potter Barrett previously said her office is seeking the death penalty for Belcher in the April 2, 2019, fatal beating of McKinley Cawley.
McKinley's father, Everett Cawley, is charged with accomplice capital murder and with permitting the abuse of a minor for allegedly failing to intervene on behalf of McKinley and her younger brother. Belcher is charged with domestic battery for injuries she allegedly inflicted on the boy.
In addition to the gag order, Johnson also signed an order prohibiting the state from attempting to obtain additional statements from Belcher. Johnson recently scheduled the case for a status hearing in July. Jury selection in the case is scheduled for Nov. 30.
McKinley died of blunt force injuries hours after her father ran through the emergency room doors of a Texarkana hospital carrying her unconscious body in the early hours of April 2, 2019. 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. McKinley's injuries 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-year-old boy's face, torso and legs, which doctors hypothesized 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.
Barrett has not said whether her office will seek the death penalty for Everett Cawley. The only other punishment for accomplice capital murder and capital murder is life without the possibility of parole.
Both Belcher and Cawley are being held in the Miller County jail.