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Riley Ann Sawyers
March 11, 2005 - July 24, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial
On October 29, 2007 a fisherman found a blue storage container that had washed up on the shore of an island in Galveston's West Bay. A medical examiner said that he the chills skull was fractured and a forensic dentist estimated the age of the child to be two or three years old. Police call the child Baby Grace and circulated a sketch of the child. A call from a grandmother in Ohio would solve the mystery of who Baby Grace really was.

     

On November 7, 2007 Sheryl Sawyers saw the police sketches of Baby Grace and she thought the child looked a lot like Riley. Sheryl then contacted the police in Galveston and told them she thought it might be her missing granddaughter:

"No, I never did think it would end up like this. I guess 
knowing is better than not knowing."

Sheryl asked if there had been a missing persons report filed for her granddaughter, she learns that there has not. Sheryl says that she and her family have not seen or spoken to Riley since May 25, 2007. On November 20, 2007, Robert Sawyers and his mother were asked to have DNA samples taken in Ohio, to be sent to Texas. on November 30, 2007 the DNA samples prove that the remains were those of Riley Ann Sawyers.

Riley Ann Sawyers suffered at the hands of her mother, Kimberly Dawn Trenor and her husband Royce Zeigler. Riley was beaten with a belt, grabbed by the hair, thrown across the room and held under water before she died. All of this because she wasn't leaning how to say please, thank and yes sir, fast enough.

Kimberly Trenor and Royce Zeigler were arrested and charged with injuring a child as well as tampering with physical evidence. Each of their bonds were set at $350,000.

Kimberly told police how Riley had died that day. After she died, they went to Walmart to buy things they would need to get rid of her body. At Walmart they purchased the blue container with hinges and wheels, a shovel, some concrete mix, latex gloves, bleach, a chain and a clip to lock the chain. They put Riley into the container and kept her in a shed for about two months. The container was later taken to the Galveston waterway and they threw it in. The sight of the container floating off would be the last Kimberly saw of her daughter until the container was discovered.

On November 23, Kimberly gave a video taped statement in the presence of her lawyer and told about her part in the death of her daughter. The statement said that she and her husband had beat Riley with a belt and held her head under the water in the bathtub. Royce then picked Riley up by her hair and threw her across the room where she hit her head on the tile floor. Riley died and they put her body into a plastic container and that they later disposed of it into the Galveston waterway. Kimberly then said that Royce tried to kill himself leaving a note that said:

"My wife is innocent of the sins that I committed."

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Riley's biological father, Robert Sawyers, was in tears as he talked about and remembered his daughter saying that she was a fun loving girl with a big imagination for her age. Robert said that she could play with any thing and have fun with it.

Robert said that Riley was active and she was hyper, but, that she was a very well behaved little girl. Riley loved to play with the hose on the patio. She would spray their patio until she soaked everything. Robert's mother said that she and her family were all devastated to find out about Riley's death.

"It's hard to think that I'll never see her again,"

Ray Tuttoilmondo, of the Galveston County Sheriff's Department, was investigating if Child Protective Services had, at one time, taken Riley away from Kimberly and Royce since this is what Kimberly had told them. Ray say that he didn't believe it had ever happened.

Kimberly eventually admitted that after Riley's body had been found, Royce had made her type up a fake letter from the Ohio Department Of Children's Services that stated Riley was going to be taken away from them. In May of 2007, Kimberly had left Ohio after filing a a report claiming that Robert Sawyer had been violent towards her. 
Kimberly was given custody of Riley and Robert was given visitation rights. After that, Kimberly and Riley disappeared.

     



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Ray Tuttoilmondo said that the Sawyers family has been very helpful in the solving of this case. Laura DePledge, the family's lawyer, learned that Kimberly had become pregnant as a teenager and that she and Robert lived with his mother for two years. Laura also said that the Sawyers family would like Riley's remains to be returned to Ohio for so that they can have a memorial service:

"What Riley needs is to be brought home. I think this 
family needs some closure."

Ray Tuttoilmondo had asked that anyone who knew Riley or any of her family to come forward with information so that they can put together the events in her life that lead up to her death. Ray said that Riley's case has touched even the hardest of police officers:

"Any way you look at it, we carry a piece of her with us
and we'll always carry a little piece of her with us,"

Holding up a child's pink and white shoe, like the ones that Riley was wearing when she was found, Ray said:

 "That says it all. A little-bitty shoe."

"That's my heart, my granddaughter. I grew up in a family of all brothers. I had two sons, no
daughters. That's my baby"
Sheryl Sawyers, speaking of Riley.

Kimberly who is only 20 years old and Royce who is 25, were charged with capital murder and are being held in a Texas jail. At this time, January 2009, Kimberly's trial is just beginning. Kimberly plead guilty to tampering with evidence, she plead not guilty to the capital murder charge. A capital murder conviction would carry an automatic life sentence. Kimberly gave birth to another baby, a boy named Shawn, while she was in jail and that baby has been living with relatives. Kimberly gave up her rights to this child, Royce did not.

Tom Stickler, Kimberly's attorney said that Kimberly could NOT be convicted of capital murder since she never intended to kill Riley. He also said that Royce was the one who actually caused her to die. I guess in HIS mind, it's okay to beat your children, throw them up against the wall, hold them under water and participate in the cause
of their death, as long as you are NOT the one to deliver the final blow to that child who can't take any more and gives up on life.

Royce and Kimberly will each face their own trial and jury. Prosecutors were not going to seek the death penalty for either of them based on their feeling that they could not prove that either of them would be a future danger which is a requirement for the death penalty. How is it that a child can die, brutally after suffering for over six hours at the hands of those who are supposed to take care of her and someone can see those people as NOT being a danger to other children, in the future? Royce has not yet been arraigned.

In July of 2008, Kimberly gave birth to a son, while in prison. The court was trying to decide who would get custody since Royce had the nerve to refuse to give up his parental rights. Child Protective Services took emergency custody of the baby after he was born. CPS needed to get into court and have a judge take away Royce's rights 
to his son.

A couple in Dallas had already gone through the background checks and CPS was going to try to conduct an interview with them so that they could take immediate custody if the judge allowed it. If the judge did NOT allow it, the baby would go into foster care. Royce could have avoided all of this if he had just signed adoption papers.

The baby, who was named Shawn, was eventually placed in the home  of Kimberly's Uncle and Aunt. CPS still had custody of the baby.

UPDATES:

Guilty verdict in 'Baby Grace' trial
Monday - February 2, 2009

GALVESTON, TX (KTRK) -- A mother was convicted Monday of murdering her own two-year-old daughter. And now, we're hearing from the jury who made the decision to send her to jail for the rest of her life.

Kimberly Trenor is now a convicted killer. She will never get out of prison. A Galveston County jury found the 20-year-old mother guilty of capital murder after just a couple hours of deliberation.

Prosecutors say Trenor and her husband, Royce Zeigler, tortured Riley Ann Sawyers to death in July 2007 while disciplining her. Riley was known as "Baby Grace" until her remains were identified. The toddler's paternal grandmother in Ohio, Sheryl Sawyers, saw an artist's sketch of the girl and told authorities in Texas she thought it was her granddaughter.

Trenor never denied beating Riley. Her defense is that she never actually killed her.

"I'm not necessarily sure that she didn't know what was going to happen, and was willing to accept that a long time ago," said defense attorney Tom Stickler after the verdict was read.

The verdict was the culmination of an emotionally charged trial.

"I saw that little shoe that I held up. That's all I saw," said Major Roy Tuttoilmondo with the Galveston County Sheriff's Office. "That's what it's all about, that little child."

Riley's paternal grandmother arrived at the courthouse for the verdict and left afterwards distraught.

"I think for Sheryl, it's difficult," said family spokesperson Laura DePledge. "She looked at Kimberly like a daughter and she found it absolutely incomprehensible that Kimberly would be responsible for something like this."

As for the prosecution, this was only the halfway point as the trial of Trenor's husband, Royce Zeigler, still looms.

"This is just one trial. We've got another one to go, but today, our thoughts and prayers remain with Ms. Sawyers and every individual, every person who came forward to help identify Riley," said Galveston County DA Kurt Sistrunk.

Zeigler's trial date has not yet been set. He, too, is charged with capital murder.

During closing arguments, we noticed several members of the seven-woman, five-man jury get emotional, wiping away tears. We heard from the jury foreman after the verdict.

"It's an emotional trial," said Randy Rothschild. "And because of the victim, you know, the victim was a two-year-old child. And that was hard to set aside and simply stick to the facts, but I think we did that."

At one point the jury foreman put his head between his hands, simply staring down at the floor.

When the defense got hold of things, the proceedings moved along pretty quickly. The defense's total case was argued in about 45 minutes and 50 minutes was spent on closing arguments. The jury got the case at 4:05pm and were done about an hour and a half later. That means the jury spent more time deliberating than the defense spent arguing its case. Trenor never took the stand.

"They had no defense," said KTRK legal analyst Joel Androphy. "There's no defense for what she did. The only defense that could have existed would be a psychiatric defense, but they had no psychiatric testimony."

Our legal analyst pointed out the case of Andrea Yates, the Clear Lake woman who drowned her five children back in the summer of 2001. She pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Androphy is surprised the mental health card wasn't played in this trial, as well.

"I'm sure her lawyers went out to search for doctors that can come to her aid," said Androphy. "And in this day and age, where doctors are willing to do anything for anybody for a fee, I'm shocked that there wasn't a doctor that said, 'I will help you with a psychiatric defense'."

Androphy also says Trenor didn't take the stand because she probably couldn't do anything to help herself. But he says, in one way, she did get a good deal.

"By going to jail for the rest of her life, she got a good deal because most people under those circumstances would have been put to death," Androphy said.

Prosecutors didn't seek the death penalty in this case. Jurors also could have also convicted her of two lesser charges, but opted not to.

During closing arguments, the prosecutor told jurors, "It shows you how manipulative she is. She was manipulative when she walked into the police department. She came there for one reason -- to blame someone else for Riley's murder."

Prosecutors went on to say, "She tells you she whipped Riley, that she pushed her head under water. But she says she didn't deliver a killing blow. Should we believe that?"

Trenor's defense told jurors, "I'm not saying she's not guilty of nothing. But not guilty of capital murder? This was unacceptable abuse, but not capital murder."

Perhaps one of the most disturbing pieces of evidence is contained in one of Trenor's journals. The notebook was given to the jurors to review in deliberations. A letter in the journal reads in part: "I just kept hitting her with the belt again and again. I don't know how long, but I remember her trying to get away and me knocking her back down."

"I told her to stand up and face me, but she couldn't stand up," reads the letter. "She was black and blue from head to toe, barely able to squeeze my fingers. All I could do was hold her and feel her go cold."

The letter wasn't specifically read to jurors, but the journal was introduced as evidence. 

Guilty verdict for 'Baby Grace' stepdad
Friday - November 6, 2009

GALVESTON, TX -- Two years after the remains of a toddler who came to be known as "Baby Grace" were dumped in Galveston Bay, the child's stepfather was convicted of capital murder in her beating death.

The remains of Riley Ann Sawyer -- weighing 12 pounds and stuffed into a plastic container -- remained unidentified for nearly a month after they were discovered October 2007. Investigators dubbed the child "Baby Grace."

Then Sheryl Sawyers of Mentor, Ohio, a Cleveland suburb, saw an artist's sketch and told Texas police she thought the child might be her missing granddaughter.

"I wish I hadn't been right," Sheryl Sawyers said Friday.

Riley's stepfather, Royce Clyde Zeigler II, was convicted of capital murder Friday and will receive an automatic life sentence without parole because prosecutors did not seek the death penalty. Jurors, who deliberated for 4 1/2 hours after an eight day trial, could have convicted Zeigler of a lesser charge of manslaughter.

Riley's mother, Kimberly Trenor, was convicted of capital murder in February and is serving a life sentence.

"The two people responsible for her murder have been convicted," Galveston County District Attorney Kurt Sistrunk said. "It's a good day for Riley."

Prosecutors said Zeigler and Trenor killed the toddler at their home in Spring, a suburb north of Houston, during a July 2007 discipline session intended to teach her proper manners. Zeigler was upset the 2-year-old didn't consistently use "please" and "thank you," authorities said.

Trenor and Zeigler beat Riley with belts, dunked her head in a cold bath water and threw her onto a tile floor, fracturing her skull, prosecutors said. An autopsy determined the child died of several skull fractures.

After Riley's death, the couple stuffed her body in a plastic box and hid it for months in a storage shed at their home. Then they drove about 75 miles southeast to Galveston Bay, where they dumped the container and body in October 2007, according to authorities.

Riley's remains were discovered by a fisherman on a small island in the bay.

"I wish it never had happened but I'm glad it's over and I'm glad we got the verdict we did," said Sheryl Sawyers, who had tears in her eyes. "I can try to move on."

Sistrunk said Riley's death "was a terrible crime that hit us all."

The impact of her death was still apparent Friday. One of the investigators in the case, Lt. Tommy Hansen of the Galveston County Sheriff's Department, took off his glasses and wiped away tears after the verdict was read. Another, Sgt. Mike Barry, pumped his left fist into the air in celebration.

Zeigler didn't react after the verdict was read. But his mother, Nellie Zeigler, slumped into one of the courtroom's padded benches in tears and repeated, "I just want to see him for a minute," after her son was taken away.

Dee McWilliams, one of Zeigler's attorneys, later said his client was "pretty devastated" by the verdict.

"From day one, we knew what we were up against ... how he had been demonized in the media. We did everything we could to change that," McWilliams said. "We are very disappointed in how things turned out."

Ziegler's attorneys told jurors their client was in another room when Riley died and there was no evidence he killed her.

But prosecutors said Zeigler lied repeatedly to investigators, giving them conflicting statements on the girl's death. Prosecutors showed the Galveston County jury video of Zeigler admitting dumping the child's body in the bay.

Trenor and Zeigler met playing an online video game and married in June 2007 after Trenor moved with her daughter from Ohio to live with Zeigler in his home in Spring. 


Click here to return to Riley's story
Click here for pictures of Riley's memorial services
Click here for the verdict on the trial

Death occurred in the state of Texas

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