Trial begins for mother, fiancé charged with murder of 4-year-old daughter

Posted at 5:22 PM, Mar 22, 2018
and last updated 2018-03-22 17:35:16-04

KALAMAZOO, Mich. -- A mother and her fiancé are on trial for child abuse and murder of a 4-year-old girl, who police say died from asphyxiation.

Kelly Ballinger charged with the child abuse of murder of her four-year-old daughter, Desray Thompson.

Desray Thompson, 4, died at home in July, when police were called to her home in Mt. Olivet after she was reported unresponsive. Thompson's mother Kelly Ballinger, and Ballinger's fiancé Matthew Longenecker, were charged with the girl's murder after police say the girl's body was bruised from mistreatment.

A picture of the four-year-old was shown to the jurors depicting deep bruises and injuries to the girl's head and face.

During opening statements Thursday, Kalamazoo Assistant Prosecutor Michael Stein described how Longenecker and Ballinger restrained the four-year-old at night with blankets, duct tape and a onesie so she could hardly breathe for a couple weeks leading up to her death. Stein told the jury the couple was more concerned about smoking methamphetamine than caring for Ballinger's daughter.

Matthew Longenecker charged with child abuse and murder of his fiancé's four-year-old daughter, Desray Thompson.

"So imagine: four-years-old, in a onesie, wrapped in blanket, wrapped in tape, unable to breathe, unable to move," said Stein. "And what did the defendant do? [Longenecker] ate pancakes while she died."

"On the night she died, she actually vomited, and was left in her vomit with a blanket over her head, in the middle of the summer, wrapped in blankets, taped in a onesie."

The defendants are represented separately, and there is a 12-person jury for each defendant. Monday, attorneys addressed the juries separately during opening statements.

Ballinger's defense attorney Eusebio Solis told the jury that Ballinger admitted to restraining her daughter, adding Ballinger says she wasn't always comfortable with the restraints. Solis shifted the blame to Longenecker, saying his relationship with the four-year-old deteriorated.

"[Longenecker] fixated on Desray," said Solis. "He singled her out: disciplined her for any little thing."

"The closer you get to the date July 9, Desray’s injuries increase. This is also clear: around that time, two, three days before that, Kelly just started a job. To make it worse, it was a third shift job that left Desray in the hands of Matthew Longenecker."

The trial resumes Friday in Kalamazoo County.