Veralee Marie Craft
June 6, 2011 - July 24, 2012
Find A Grave Memorial

Evidence suggested that Veralee Craft had been being abused for up to at least three weeks before she died. Veralee had been beaten on the top of her head, shaken, both of her legs were broken, one arm was broken, her shoulder was broken and she had a skull fracture, all of this according to the doctors who treated her after she was taken to the hospital due to severe head trauma, dying less than two days later.

Chelsey Marie Lawrence was dating Preston King, a 27 year old man who she allowed to baby sit her daughter when she went to work. Preston lived with his mother and in the home they shared, reports say that Preston attacked and beat this little Angel and then put her to bed where later she stopped breathing.

Jonathan Craft is Veralee's biological father and he said that he had been trying without success to visit his daughter for about the past three months, ever since Chelsey started dating Preston. Jonathan lived in another town and Chelsey had full custody of their daughter:

"For the last three months I contacted her family almost every day. I sent the police out to do
well being checks and I still had no idea what was going on with my daughter"

Unfortunately for Jonathan, arranging welfare checks for Veralee wouldn't be enough and a call would come in letting him know that she had been rushed to the hospital:

"I didn't know what to think. I can't really cope until everything is done. People don't
realize this stuff goes on. You never think it's going to happen to you. I saw my daughter
lying in a hospital bed with bruises all over her face. She had a busted
up nose, skull
fractures. Her eyes were red and puffy. She just didn't look good. I've been
trying to
find out what's been going on with my daughter and come to find out she's been

hidden from me because this stuff has been going on"

Police had been called twice by Jonathan to do a welfare check on Veralee, in one month. During on visit to the home, an office actually saw Veralee and reported that there were no visible signs of abuse and she seemed to be okay. During the second visit, Police were told that Veralee was not in the home, she was off visiting family members so there was no contact with her during that visit. After the second visit by Police, a protective order was taken out against Jonathan. Someone got it wrong and the protection order SHOULD have been taken out against the man who was actually hurting this precious little girl.

Jonathan spoke about his daughter saying that her heart had been strong until the very end. On Tuesday, July 24, 2012 at 9:37 a.m., Veralee died and her organs were donated so that another child could live:

"They said her heart was really strong"
Johnathan Craft

When Jonathan had last seen Veralee before that day, she was happy and healthy, starting to walk and she could say a few words. But when he arrived at the hospital, he knew things were bad:

"She was gone when I got to the hospital. You could just look at her and tell"

Jonathan wanted to bury Veralee close to him and he said that he didn't understand at all what had happened:

"I don't know if I'll ever know. Only he knows what happened. How could you do this to a little girl"

In December of 2012, Preston King was indicted on a capital murder charge, aggravated malicious wounding, child abuse and child neglect. In November, Preston had told Police that he had punched Veralee in the head and then he recanted that statement.

A year later, In December of 2013, Preston was once again on court and expected to plead guilty to first degree murder in an attempt to avoid the death penalty. In September Preston offered to plead to a charge of second degree murder but that plea was not accepted by the Commonwealth. While Veralee's family did not have their hearts set on Preston getting the death penalty for what he did, they did want to see him get a very long sentence. Jonathan was happy with the first degree murder plea:

"I still feel a little relief that he had accepted what he had done and admitted to it and that made
me feel a little bit better. I feel like I can actually rest now and begin to grieve over my daughter"

A hearing was set for December 12, 2013 in which Preston did plead guilty. In March of 2014, Preston was in court again for sentencing. Preston had been evaluated and testimony was brought up about how he had been bullied as a teenager and as a result had started using drugs and was unable to mature:

"I can easily imagine him being overwhelmed in a parenting situation particularly when he
has no real experience"
Dr. Evan Melson

The Prosecutor took another stand on what happened and chose to speak about the REAL victims in these situations instead of looking for sympathy for the monsters who kill them:

"I think they represent the hope and promise of a world that could be rather than a world as it is.
And I think by protecting those children we move toward a better world"
Assistant Commonwealth Attorney - Brian Holoran

Preston was sentenced to 60 years in prison with 28 years suspended, though I am not sure why he deserves ANY of it to be suspended:

"No matter how much time he gets it won't bring her back. I won't have her. It's not over
for me there's so much more to this. I'll never be able to fully grieve. I still don't know what
happened. And that's that hardest thing, not knowing what happened and why it happened"
Jonathan Craft

I am not sure why it took so long but in July of 2014, FINALLY Chelsey Lawrence was arrested and charged with felony child neglect and was held without bail. Jonathan was happy to know that justice would be served:

"I was relieved that more justice would be served for my daughter. I felt like maybe we
could have closure for the family"

Death occurred in the state of Virginia
This page was created on August 5, 2014

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