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'Baby Grace' murder case headed to trial

  • Story Highlights
  • Kimberly Dawn Trenor pleads guilty to tampering with evidence
  • She faces capital murder trial in death of child known as 'Baby Grace'
  • Child's body was found in plastic container on island in Galveston Bay
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(CNN) -- A woman accused of killing her 2-year-old daughter and dumping her body in Galveston Bay in Texas has pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence in the case.

Kimberly Dawn Trenor is scheduled to go on trial for murder next week in the death of her daughter.

Kimberly Dawn Trenor is scheduled to go on trial for murder next week in the death of her daughter.

But Kimberly Dawn Trenor, 20, pleaded not guilty to the capital murder charge, her lawyer said Wednesday.

Trenor and her husband, Royce Clyde Zeigler II, 25, both were charged with tampering with evidence and capital murder in the case of Riley Ann Sawyers, whose body was found in a large blue plastic container on an uninhabited island in Galveston Bay, Texas, in October 2007.

The charge of tampering with evidence accused the couple of concealing the child's remains.

Trenor was arraigned Tuesday in Galveston, Texas, said her lawyer, Tom Stickler. Jury selection for her trial on the capital murder charge begins Wednesday. The trial will begin in earnest on January 27, he said.

The jury also will sentence Trenor on the evidence tampering charge, which carries a penalty of two to 20 years in prison, The Houston Chronicle reported.

Zeigler, who is being tried separately, has not been formally arraigned, Stickler said.

Both remain in jail. The Houston Chronicle reported bail had been set at $850,000 each.

Riley Ann's case garnered national headlines after a fisherman found her body on the island in the bay. Authorities were unsure of her identity, and police dubbed her "Baby Grace." Police distributed composite sketches of the girl nationwide, and Sheryl Sawyers, the girl's paternal grandmother, contacted police from her Ohio home to say the drawing resembled her granddaughter. DNA testing confirmed the child's identity.

According to an affidavit, Trenor told police Riley had been beaten and thrown across a room and that her head was held underwater before she died on July 24, 2007. She said the couple hid the girl's body in a storage shed for one to two months before they put it in the plastic container and dumped it into the bay.

A medical examiner said Riley's skull was fractured in three places, injuries that would have been fatal.

A cross has since been erected on the island where the child was found, which was named Riley's Island in her honor, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Trenor moved to Texas from Ohio with the girl in May 2007 to be with Zeigler, whom Trenor had met on the Internet.

While in custody, Trenor gave birth this summer to another child, who is now in the care of relatives, Stickler said.

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