The unexpected death of 14-month-old Jurayah Smith was devastating to her mother, Dedreuna Smith. On October 22, 2017, the little girl was in the care of her father, Morris Bevily, and his wife, T’kia. Back in 2019, Dedreuna described to reporters what she experienced when discovered her daughter unresponsive in the couple’s Mississippi home.
“He walked me all through the house. I asked ‘where’s Jurayah?’ and that’s when we got into the room and there she was in the crib,” said Smith. “And she was on her back and her eyes were closed and her mouth was closed. Her lips were kinda like a greenish color. You could tell she had been dead for a long time and she was cold.”
Unsurprisingly, Dedreuna wanted answers, immediately. Later, she would receive the news that she and little Jurayah Smith’s loved ones dreaded: an autopsy revealed that her cause of death was a homicide. It was reported that Jurayah suffered multiple blunt head trauma. Claiborne County Sheriff Frank Davis explained to reporters at the time that Jurayah had been in the care of multiple people the day she died, not just her father and stepmother.
The Bevilys were arrested and charged with capital murder, and after posting $1 million bond, the couple was released. They were reportedly living in New Orleans where they were required to wear ankle monitors and were ordered to stay away from children.
“Not to have her here and just to look at videos, it is just unspeakable,” Dedreuna said about the loss of her daughter while speaking to reporters in 2019. There have been social media posts shared showing the medical examiner’s findings and accusing the Bevilys for Jurayah’s death, reportedly made by the little girl’s relatives.
I am Jurayah Smith. This is a picture from my first Valentine’s Day. Months later, On October 21, 2017, I was murdered by my step-mother in cold blood. Please follow my page, retweet my thread, and share my story. 💜 pic.twitter.com/fN5zUZFFmF
— JusticeforJS (@JbJusticefor) February 14, 2021
In January 2021, T’kia Bevily went on trial for the death of 14-month-old Jurayah Smith and after listening to five days worth of testimony, a jury convicted her of capital murder. She was sentenced to life in prison without the possiblity of parole. The District Attorney’s office declined to seek the death penalty in connection with this case. T’kia’s family have spoken out on her behalf as they vehemently deny that she had anything to do with the death of Jurayah.
”We don’t understand how the jurors could come to the decision that they made,” said Christopher Smith, T’Kia’s brother. “I know my sister is innocent because she loved Jurayah… I know my sister is innocent because she would never hurt anyone like that. I know my sister is innocent because I know her character.” He further explained to reporters why the evidence didn’t support the prosecutor’s case.
”They stated that the skull fractures had bleeding and that it could have been up to eight days prior, that the bleeding was old and that the healing had already occurred, multiple doctors stated that in trial,” said Smith. “The day before Jurayah had passed away, Jurayah had been passed to three homes. It’s clear that no one was thoroughly investigated besides T’Kia, and throughout that investigation they didn’t find nothing tying T’Kia to the death besides the circumstantial piece of evidence that the child passed away in T’Kia’s home. That’s all they have.”
T’kia’s relatives have set up a GoFundMe in hopes of receiving financial help for her children.
However, Jurayah’s mother Dedreunda and Jurayah’s loved ones celebrated the news of T’kia’s conviction. Dedreunda shared with reporters what she would say to Bevily if she had the opportunity.
“You had a chance to say you didn’t want my daughter around, you had plenty enough time to say, ‘Come and get her,’” Smith said. “All I want to know is why? What was the reason when you could have just told me to come and get her?” She added, “This last three years, like I say, it’s been quite hell. We’ve been fighting so long, and we didn’t know which way it was going to go. It’s been a struggle.”
“We got justice, baby girl,” said Dedreunda. “That’s all we were waiting on. I’m going to dance with you as soon as I get to the grave.”
Please share this story about Jurayah Smith to continue the conversation about child abuse and neglect. She was our sister and her life matters.
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