Mother of murdered toddler in Claiborne Co. speaks out after alleged killer is granted new trial

Published: Sep. 17, 2021 at 10:37 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - A Claiborne County woman convicted of killing her stepdaughter was recently granted a new trial after a judge learned a juror was related to the victim.

The toddler’s biological mother, DeDreuna Smith, spoke out Friday.

“That was kind of like a slap in the face,” she said. “It’s unfair, and I don’t see how the decision was made. It’s like, how do you convict someone and then take it back?”

Fourteen-month-old Jurayah Smith was killed in October 2017 after sustaining multiple blunt force trauma to the head. Smith said her presence lifted everyone’s spirits.

“She brought a smile to a dark room,” Smith said. “Jurayah was loved by many. Maybe loved too much by too many. But she was a great soul.”

Juraya’s alleged killer is the victim’s stepmother - T’Kia Bevily. In January, Bevely was sentenced to life in prison, which was a sense of relief for Smith.

“I feel like they did what they needed to do as far as getting someone that had harmed my daughter in jail,” Smith said. “She didn’t need to be out.”

Jurayah’s aunt, AJ Barnes, said between now and the new trial, they’re hoping and praying that this time, justice prevails.

“We have a grieving mother, we have a dead 14-month-old who was murdered,” Barnes said. “What we want people to remember is that Jurayah is the victim in this situation.”

Smith said, right now, it doesn’t feel like Jurayah is the victim.

“It just seems like I’m getting treated like I am the killer, and I feel like T’Kia is being treated like she is the victim,” she said. “And that’s not the way things were supposed to go. It’s just not right.”

Bevily’s brother, Christopher Smith, sent in the below statement Friday:

“T’Kia Bevily was wrongfully convicted and did not receive a fair and impartial trial. Not only did the jury engage in misconduct, but the evidence was legally insufficient to sustain a conviction. Investigations and prosecutions that lack integrity carry a heavy cost. The infringement upon T’Kia’s rights under the Sixth Amendment has accosted not only true justice for Jurayah, but also has robbed T’Kia of her basic human rights. We are fighting for this injustice to be undone. We are fully ecstatic that T’Kia has been granted a new trial. This is the first step in the right direction towards true justice for Jurayah and T’Kia.”

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